Branch Of Blossoming Plum
painting proper © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Liu Shiru [Liu Shih-ju], also known as Xuehu, Chinese (c. 1517 - after 1601)
Branch of Blossoming Plum
Work Type
painting, hanging scroll
mid- to late 16th century
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Ming dynasty, 1368-1644
Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll; ink on silk; with artist inscription, signature reading "Xuehu," and seals
painting proper: H. 180.3 x W. 98.4 cm (71 x 38 3/4 in.)
mounting, including cord and roller ends: H. 260.4 x W. 125.1 cm (102 1/2 x 49 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: upper left corner, brush-written in ink beneath artist's inscription, signed: Xuehu
  • seal: upper left corner, five artist's seals: 1) to the right of the inscription: "Wan yu lou" (rectangular, relief seal);
    2) beneath the inscription, following signature: "Shan yin ren" (circular, intaglio);
    3) below seal 2: "Shiru" (square, intaglio);
    4) below seal 3: "Hanjiang Diaosou tushu" (rectangular intaglio);
    5) a rectangular, relief pictorial seal of a fisherman by a river (i.e., a pictorial representation of the artist's sobriquet, Hanjiang Diaosou)
  • inscription: upper right corner, brush-written in ink beneath colophon, signed: Huangnan Daoren
  • seal: upper right, following colophon and signature: two seals:
    1) "Huang Nan";
    2) "Yi Wang zhi zhang"
  • seal: lower right corner: one seal: "Ming Shan Tang lan shuhua yinji" (rectangular, intaglio seal)
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
A 10-005 (Suzuki Kei)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Edward B. Bruce Collection of Chinese Paintings; Gift of Galen L. Stone
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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A native of Shanyin (modern Shaoxing) in Zhejiang province, Liu Shiru was one of the foremost specialists of ink plum in the sixteenth century. He is said as a boy to have been deeply impressed by the work of a renowned fourteenth-century plum blossom painter, Wang Mian (1287-1359) and to have vowed to devote his life to mastering the subject painted by this master. Not content with merely copying, Liu wandered the hills of his district studying plum trees to enrich his understanding of the subject. In addition to his few extant paintings, his illustrated manual on ink-plum painting, Xuehu meipu, survives to represent his art. Because it blooms in February, before donning its leaves, the Chinese plum (prunus mume) is associated with winter and is regarded as a symbol of strength in the face of adversity. In addition, its blossoms symbolize feminine beauty and its weathered trunk the humble scholar.

The artist's poem on this painting, inscribed in the upper left, reads:
A green dragon, it rears up high and seems to reach for the Milky Way
Like jade butterflies, in irregular patterns, unsoiled by mud.
Suddenly the Wind God Fengyi gives forth a wild whistle
And the splendor of spring is scattered all over, east and west.
(Translation by Hans Frankel)
Publication History

Max Loehr, "Aesthetic Delight: An Anthology of Far Eastern Art", Apollo (New Series), Apollo Publications Inc. (London, England, May 1978), vol. CVII, no. 195, pp. 414-421, p. 420, fig. 7

Suzuki Kei, Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku, Amerika Kanada hen (Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Paintings, Volume 1: American and Canadian Collections), University of Tokyo Press (Tokyo, Japan, 1982), p. 54, no. A 10-005

Maggie Bickford, Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice: The Flowering Plum in Chinese Art, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn., 1985), pp. 101-103, fig. 45; p. 261, cat. no. 23

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 30, p. 34

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 60-61

Exhibition History

Chinese Painting and Decorative Arts from the Permanent Collection, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/17/1991 - 01/26/1992

Masterworks of East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/03/1995 - 06/09/1996

Plum, Orchid, Chrysanthemum, and Bamboo: Botanical Motifs and Symbols in East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 07/06/2002 - 01/05/2003

A Compelling Legacy: Masterworks of East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/24/2004 - 03/20/2005

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/04/2015 - 11/29/2015

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at