‘Wang Zhen was an ‘amateur’ scholar-artist who took to painting relatively late in life having previously been a successful and wealthy Shanghai businessman. This endearing and robust image of the Buddhist deity Bodhidharma, the chief patriarch of Chan (or Zen) Buddhism, reveals the imaginative and energetic combination of tradition and modernity in late 19th and early 20th century Chinese painting. According to legend, Bodhidharma achieved Enlightenment after spending nine years staring at a blank wall. This empathy with the Buddhist ideal is alluded to in the inscription on the right by the well-known Beijing intellectual of the time, Cai Yuanpei. The scroll is signed ‘Bailong shanren’ (white dragon hermit) and the poem, by Wang, is an ode to Bodhidharma:
‘Nine years facing the wall,
Shadow impressed on stone;
To move is not so good
As it is to be stationary.’’
‘The Asian Collections: Art Gallery of New South Wales’. pg.168
© 2003 Trustees, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Place where the work was made
late 19th century-early 20th century
hanging scroll; ink and colours on paper
148.3 x 80.5 cm
Signature & date
Signed c.l., in Chinese, inscribed in black ink “Bailong shanren”. Not dated. Signed c.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink "Wang Zhen [artist's seal]".
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Contemporary Chinese Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 May 1985–30 Jun 1985
Buddhist Art from the Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 May 1995–10 Sep 1995
Art of the brush, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Sep 1995–12 Nov 1995
Referenced in 8 publications
Edmund Capon, Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 170 (colour illus.), 171, 175 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 175 is a detail of this work.
Edmund Capon, Orientations, 'Modern Chinese Paintings in the Art Gallery of New South Wales: The Shanghai School and its Impact', pg. 104-109, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 107 (colour illus.). fig.4
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 261 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The Shanghai School and Modern Painting', Sydney, 2003, 168 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 12, 14 (illus.). Cat.no.3.6
Jackie Menzies, Contemporary Chinese Painting, 'Wang Zhen', Sydney, 1985, 14 (illus.). Cat.no.20
Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1990, 8 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 207 (colour illus.).