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Asian art

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Picture of a cat and a butterfly after Jiang Nansha


Zhang Xiong


1803 - 1886


The inscription on the top of the scroll reads: ‘Picture of a cat and a butterfly after Jiang Nansha (Jiang Tingxi, 1669-1732). Painted by Zhang Xiong, the 60 year old man of Yanghu (‘Mandarin Lake’).’ The inscription is followed by a seal (‘calligraphy and painting by Zixiang’).

The title Zhang Xiong inscribed on the scroll suggests that the painting might have been painted to celebrate an old man’s birthday, therefore all the objects depicted are auspicious: cypress, Alcea rosea ('shukui'), Hemerocallis fulva ('xuancao'). The old cypress with rugged, battered trunks and twisted boughs conveys an image of integrity, dignity and enduring strength. The appearance of a cat and a butterfly in the painting is meaningful. Cat ('mao') and butterfly ('die') together in Chinese ('maodie') is a pun denoting a person who has reached an old age with great undertaking.

Zhang Xiong (1803-1886), alias Zixiang and ‘Old man of Mandarin Lake’, was a native of Jiaxing in Zhejiang, but later based his career in Shanghai establishing his fame as a professional painter and a pioneer of the influential Shanghai School. Together with Ren Xiong and Zhu Xiong, they were known as ‘Three Xiong’ (lit. ‘Three Bears’, because the word ‘xiong’ is a homophone of ‘bear’)’. While Ren Xiong was famous for his figure painting, Zhang and Zhu were two acclaimed artists in the flower and bird painting genre. Zhang was also well known for seal carving, and was a keen collector of seals, calligraphy and paintings.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2008.


Other Title

(Cat in tree watching butterfly)

Place where the work was made


Media category


Materials used

hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper


183.0 x 46.0 cm


Gift of W.R. Geddes accessioned 2008


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Zhang Xiong

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history