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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Culture: China
Title: Scholar and Servant
Date: Late 17th century
Medium: Hanging scroll: ink and colors on paper
Dimensions: Image: 21 1/2 x 21 inches (54.6 x 53.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Frederick Baekeland
Object Number: 79.092.005
Label Text: Inscribed:

The autumn sentiment in the old garden is subtly austere.
Gazing at the yellow flowers, he is reminded of his integrity in his late years, like the fragrance of chrysanthemums.

Playing the qin counted as one of the Four Arts (siyi) of Chinese scholars, along with qi (a Chinese chessboard game, also known by its Japanese name go), shu (calligraphy and books), and hua (painting).

Prominent among literati associated with playing the qin was the poet Tao Qian (372-427), who made reference to the instrument in many of his poems. An exemplar of the scholar recluse, Tao Qian served as a government official, but then retired to the country, where his leisurely activities included cultivating chrysanthemums, drinking wine, writing poetry and playing the qin. The refined sounds of the zither’s silk strings were thought to contribute to one’s intimacy with nature, as well as to perfect the inner nature of the gentleman. Although he loved playing the qin, one day Tao Qian removed its strings, exclaiming “I have come to understand the deeper meaning of the qin. Why should I need the sound of the strings?”

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.