We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.



late 19th century-early 20th century


SHEN Shiyou


1857 – 1917

Alternate image of Inkstone by SHEN Shiyou
Alternate image of Inkstone by SHEN Shiyou
  • Details

    Other Title
    Inkstone with inscriptions by WANG Zhen and WU Changshuo
    Place where the work was made
    late 19th century-early 20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    carved inkstone
    33.3 x 20.3 x 4.5 cm
    Purchased 1989
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    SHEN Shiyou

    Works in the collection


  • About

    This unusually large, fine, black inkstone has the added interest of the inscriptions on it and the provenance they imply. It is incised with an image of a kneeling Buddhist monk, which, the inscription suggests, is a self-portrait by the noted Buddhist and artist Wang Zhen (1867-1938), and a poem [upper left] by him which reads:

    'In my previous life I was a monk.
    Suddenly I came down to this human world,
    The fragrant incense is not smoking, but already flowers appear in my vision,
    where I can find the essence of Chan [Buddhism].'

    It is signed 'white dragon hermit' and dated 1912. The same inkstone also has two poems inscribed by Wu Changshuo (1844-1927), the principle one, on the face of the stone and adjacent to Wang's [upper right] is richly enigmatic:

    'Jin Shoumen [Jin Nong] once said
    I am in my heart a monk eating congxi [rice gruel]
    Now I am going to use this title to give to you.
    How about that?'

    Another inscription by Wu, on the side of the stone, states that it was carved by Shen Shiyou (1857-1917), a noted collector and inkstone carver who often worked with him.

    The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.161.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 4 publications