An image of Nine years facing the wall

Wang Zhen

(China 1867 – 1938)

Nine years facing the wall

Other titles:
Bodhidharma, Figure
Not on display
Further information

‘Wang Zhen was an ‘amateur’ scholar-artist who took to painting relatively late in life having previously been a successful and wealthy Shanghai businessman. This endearing and robust image of the Buddhist deity Bodhidharma, the chief patriarch of Chan (or Zen) Buddhism, reveals the imaginative and energetic combination of tradition and modernity in late 19th and early 20th century Chinese painting. According to legend, Bodhidharma achieved Enlightenment after spending nine years staring at a blank wall. This empathy with the Buddhist ideal is alluded to in the inscription on the right by the well-known Beijing intellectual of the time, Cai Yuanpei. The scroll is signed ‘Bailong shanren’ (white dragon hermit) and the poem, by Wang, is an ode to Bodhidharma:

‘Nine years facing the wall,
Shadow impressed on stone;
To move is not so good
As it is to be stationary.’’

‘The Asian Collections: Art Gallery of New South Wales’. pg.168
© 2003 Trustees, Art Gallery of New South Wales

Place of origin
late 19th century-early 20th century
Painting, Calligraphy
hanging scroll; ink and colours on paper
148.3 x 80.5 cm
Signature & date

Signed c.l., in Chinese, inscribed in black ink “Bailong shanren”. Not dated.
Signed c.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink "Wang Zhen [artist's seal]".

Purchased 1989
Accession number