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Asian art

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late 19th century-early 20th century


SHEN Shiyou


1857 - 1917


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.


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 cm


Purchased 1989


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

SHEN Shiyou

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


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 (illus.). fig.5

Jackie Menzies, Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 11.

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Chinese Painting', pg. 42-52, Sydney, 1990, 47 (illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The Scholar's Studio', Sydney, 2003, 161 (colour illus.).