painting proper © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Zhu Da (also known as Bada Shanren), Chinese (1626 - 1706)
Moon and Melon
Paintings with Calligraphy
Work Type
painting with calligraphy, album folio
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Qing dynasty, 1644-1911
Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll: ink on paper; with signature reading "Bada Shanren"
painting proper: H. 73.6 x W. 45.1 cm (29 x 17 3/4 in.)
mounting, including cord and roller ends: H. 209.6 x W. 65.4 cm (82 1/2 x 25 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: Bada Shanren
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
A 10-019 (Suzuki Kei)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Earl Morse, Harvard Law School, Class of 1930
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Zhu Da, better known as Bada Shanren, was born into the Yiyang branch of the Ming imperial family in 1626, in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. His work ineradicably changed the course of the history of Chinese painting more than almost any other artist. Despite this impact and his high birth, little is known of his life and even less of his motivations. It is almost certain that most of his family was killed during the dynastic wars at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Zhu Da himself chose sanctuary in Buddhist monasteries, where he remained until the late 1670s. The Buddhist life allowed a person of his capacities tremendous freedom during the seventeenth century. He was able to pursue a quiet life of Buddhist teaching, poetry, and painting and calligraphy. Loyal to the Ming until his death, he refused to serve or even to acknowledge the Qing (1644-1911). The poem on this painting translates:

A Ming cake seen from one side,
The moon, so round when the melons rise.
Everyone points to the mooncakes,
But hope that the melons will ripen is a fool's dream.

Translation by Richard M. Barnhart

During the insurrection that brought about the downfall of the Mongol rule of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) in the fourteenth century, moon cakes were carried by the rebels as recognizable signs of their political allegiance. Although that earlier rebellion succeeded, Zhu Da seems to imply that no uprising against the Manchu Qing has a hope of success. Recent research has shown that the melon was also apparently a symbol of loyalty to the preceding dynasty and that, because of its many seeds, the melon was an embodiment of royal lineage.
Publication History

Wang Fangyu, "On the Poems of Chu Ta", National Palace Museum Quarterly, National Palace Museum, Taipei (Taipei, Taiwan, 1976), XI, No. 1, pp. 39-62, pp. 51-54, figs. 10a and 10b

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), pp. I-55 and I-432, no. A 10-019

Wang Fangyu and Richard M. Barnhart, Master of the Lotus Garden: The Life and Art of Bada Shanren (1626-1705), exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn., 1990), pp. 104-106, fig. 52 (Cat. 8)

Jane Myers, "Independent Creations: Kuniyoshi's Ink Drawings of 1921-25", exh. cat., Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, Texas, 1996), Fig. 35 / page 57

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 106

Claudia Brown, Great Qing: Painting in China, 1644-1911, University of Washington Press (Seattle and London, 2014), pp. 29-30, fig. 1.26

Dorinda Neave, Lara Blanchard, and Marika Sardar, Asian Art, Pearson Education, Inc. (Boston, MA, 2015), p. 216, ill. 9-28

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

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

China in Twelve Artworks, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/23/2016 - 05/08/2016

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