Scholars Gazing at the Moon and Reflections of It in the Water
Ch'en Ch'üan (Chen Quan)
17 century A.D.
Hanging scroll: ink and colors on silk
China, Late Ming or early Ch'ing
h 43 -5/8 x w 17 -7/8 inches
Inscription by artist: Verse couplet. "I have depicted: 'All the moons in the water are held by a single moon; One single
moon can thus hold all the lakes and rivers' - an allusion to the Ch'an Buddhist poem: "The moon imprints itself on a thousand
rivers,/ and yet, in reality, is a single moon." Translation by Patricia Berger
"[In this painting] scholars here and there throughout the picture are all looking at reflections of the moon. There are scholars
on the bridge looking at one reflection of the moon and there are people in the foreground looking at another. Then there's
the real moon up in the sky. It's quite a wonderful conception . . . What the picture really is showing is a Ch'an or Zen
Buddhist idea [with] the inscription meaning something like, 'all phenomena and things go back to one cause and are infinitely
manifested on earth.' The idea is that everybody sees a different reflection of the moon, but they all go back to one real
moon. The picture was done for a Zen monk, it turns out."
This is the only known work by the unrecorded artist Ch'en Ch'üan, whose influences - notably the use of lush washes of ink
and vivid brushwork - appear to have come from Che school adherents in the Hangchou area.