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Asian art

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Lu Qiguang


1828 - 1898


‘The luxuriant pine and strong bamboo endure for one thousand years;
The fanciful phoenix and the crane soar above the highest clouds.’
Inscription and signature: Written for Jinyuan as he requested. Lu Qiguang.

In traditional Chinese culture, the pine tree and bamboo along with other plants often form emblems of Confucian virtue – this grouping of exemplary plants endures when all others have succumbed. Their enduring qualities in turn also make them conventional symbols of longevity. Unlike the pine and bamboo whose symbolism derives from their natural quality, the allegory of phoenix and crane comes from their association with myth and religion. Both were considered heavenly birds. While the appearance of a phoenix may mark the beginning of a new era of peaceful and prosperous times, the crane represents the travel vehicle of the celestial being. Combining all these motifs together, the allusion of the couplet goes beyond Confucian moral symbolism to become an evocation of the otherworldly or immortal.

Lu Qiguang (alias Zhiyou) was a native of Nanfeng in Jiangxi province. He passed the imperial civil service examination in 1868 and was granted the ‘jinshi’ degree. He served in several posts of the imperial government, including magistrate of Jinan prefecture. Lu developed his own brisk and well-knit style by modelling himself on the calligraphy masters of the Jin dynasty. The pleasant and elegant quality of his calligraphy is in tune with the spirit of Dong Qichang and Zhao Mengfu. Accordingly his calligraphy was in high demand, and his house was always filled with requests from friends and admirers for his works. Skilled in running script, he could brush dozens of pieces a day without getting bored (1).

1 In Tao Sheyuan, 'Zhaodai mingren chidu xiaozhuan xuji'.

‘The Poetic Mandarin: Chinese Calligraphy from the James Hayes Collection’. pg.78.
© 2005 Art Gallery of New South Wales

The couplet, written on two narrow pieces of paper or silk, and hung either side of a large painting or doorway, is one of the most common forms of calligraphic art and has a long standing history in China. They first appeared in the Five Dynasties period (907-979) as pairs of plaques, carved after written master copies, to decorate architectural columns, courtyards and garden doorways. Couplets for indoor display, written on paper or silk, came into existence in the 17th century and gained great popularity in the Qing dynasty. The couplets themselves are either taken from classical poetry or contemporary literary works composed by the calligraphers themselves and their friends. A couplet is made up of two parts called the head and the tail. The two lines of verse are antithetically parallel. Formerly it was a very common practice to send them to friends or relations on such occasions as marriages and birthdays, or as condolences to families of deceased persons.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2003.


Place where the work was made


Media category


Materials used

pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper


a - right scroll, 133.7 x 32.2 cm, image

a - right scroll, 173 x 40.1 cm, scroll

b - left scroll, 133.7 x 32.2 cm, image

b - left scroll, 173 x 40.1 cm, scroll

Signature & date

Signed c.l. part b, in Chinese, inscribed in black ink "... Lu Qiguang".
Signed l.l. part b, in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Qiguang yinxin [artist's seal]".
Not dated.


Gift of Dr. James Hayes 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Lu Qiguang

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


LIU Yang, The poetic mandarin: Chinese calligraphy from the James Hayes collection, Sydney, 2005, 78, 79 (illus.). 17