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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Buffalo and Herder

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Buffalo and Herder

late 12th century

Barefoot on a warm day, a scruffy-haired boy is distracted by the bird he has caught, leaving his charge free to graze. By the 12th century in China, pastoral scenes of oxen and ox-herding evoked the romance of rural life. This nostalgia for the tranquil countryside made such scenes popular gifts in courtly circles, and several court painters were known for their buffalo pictures. The images were also highly symbolic, interpreted by the Chan (Zen) Buddhist community as a metaphor for realizing one’s Buddha-nature through trivial daily chores such as tending to animals.
Ink and light color on silk
Overall: 9 7/8 x 11 1/8 in. (25.1 x 28.2cm)
Thomas D. Stimson Memorial Collection
Provenance: Ch’eng Chang-chu (probably Zhu Chengzhang 朱成章 1888–1930); Tonying & Co., NYC
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySan Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Art, Art in Asia and the West, 1957.

Munich, Germany, 1000 Years Of Chinese Painting, 1960 (Zurich, 1960; The Hague, 1960; Cleveland Museum of Art, 1960).

Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith College Museum of Art, Chinese Art, 1962.

New York, New York, Asia Society, The Art Of Southern Sung, China, 1962.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Art of Protest, Apr. 27, 2000 - Jan. 21, 2001.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective, Dec. 22, 2007 - July 26, 2009.

Tokyo, Japan, Suntory Museum of Art, Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art From the Seattle Art Museum, July 25 - Sept. 6, 2009 (Kobe, Japan, Kobe City Museum, Sept. 19 - Dec. 6, 2009; Kofu, Japan, Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Dec. 23, 2009 - Feb. 28, 2010; Atami, Japan, MOA Museum of Art, Mar. 13 - May 9, 2010; Fukuoka, Japan, Fukuoka Art Museum, May 23 - July 19, 2010).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Boundless: Stories of Asian Art, Feb. 8, 2020 - ongoing [on view Feb. 8, 2020 - July 11, 2021].
Published ReferencesUtsukushiki Ajia no tamatebako, Masatomo Kawai, Yasuhiro Nishioka, and Yukiko Shirahara. Utsukushiki Ajia no Tamatebako: Shiatoru Bijutsukan Shozo Nihon Tokyo Bijutsu Meihinten = Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art from the Seattle Art Museum. ([Tokyo]: Yomiuri Shinbunsha, 2009), cat. # 80.

Toda, Teisuke and Hiromitsu Ogawa. Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue of Chinese Paintings: Second Series. (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1998). See I-362 and I-268, cat. # A55-051.

Time-Life Books. What Life Was Like in the Land of the Dragon: Imperial China, AD 960-1368. (Alexandria, Va: Time-Life Books, 1998), No. 63.

Jang, Scarlett Ju-Yu, “Ox-herding Painting in the Sung Dynasty,” Artibus Asiae, Vol. 52, 1992: 54-93. p. 77, fig. 8

Cohen, Warren, East Asian Art and American Culture, (New York, Columbia University Press, 1991), fig. 28.

Seattle Art Museum, Selected Works, (Seattle, Washington: The Museum, 1991): 163.

Henry Trubner, William. Jay. Rathbun, Catherine A. Kaputa, Asiatic Art in the Seattle Art Museum: A Selection and Catalogue, (Seattle: The Museum, 1973): 163, #115.

Zhuang Shen莊申,Ming Zhou Yong liu yin mu niu tu yu yi fu “xiang xin shi song dai de mu niu tu” de zai du jian ding 明周用柳蔭牧牛圖與一幅「相信是宋代的牧牛圖」的再度鑒定,The National Palace Museum research quarterly, 2(4), 1968: 33-48.

Maeda, Robert J. “The Chao Ta-nien Tradition," in Ars Orientalis, Vol. 8 (1970): 243-253, p. 250, fig. 5 (page unnumbered)

Cahill, James, New York, Asia Society, The Art of Southern Sung China, cat., New York: Asia House, distributed by H. N. Abrams, 1962: 23 no. 3; ill.: 22.

Smith College. Chinese Art: An Exhibition of Paintings, Jades, Bronzes and Ceramics: being A Contribution Made by Smith College Museum of Art to the College Interim Session. (Northampton, Mass: The Museum, 1962), No. 9.

Haus der Kunst Munchen and Roger Goepper. 1000 Jahre chinesische Malerei. (Munchen: Haus der Kunst, 1959), #21: 34, 35.

Sirén, Osvald, Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles, vol. III, (New York: Ronald Press, 1956): 255.

Lee, Sherman E., and Wen Fong, Streams and Mountains without End. A Northern Sung Handscroll and Its Significance in the History of Early Chinese Painting, (Ascona, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae Publishers, 1955): 2.

SAM Guild, Engagement Calendar, 1953, No.37.

Seattle Art Museum, Handbook, 1951: 65.

Tupper, Emily Hartwell. Birthplace: China; the Life Stories of Some of the Chinese Animals and Birds in the Seattle Art Museum. 1950.

Lee, Sherman. “A Probable Sung Buffalo Painting,” Artibus Asiae, Vol. XII # 4, 1949: 292-301, fig. 1

Liu, Bo. The Multivalent Imagery of the Ox in Song Painting. Journal of Song-Yuan Studies Volume 44 (November 2015): pp. 35-36, reproduced fig. 2-4.

Powers, Martin J., et al. A Companion to Chinese Art. West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2016; p. 360, reproduced fig. 17.2.

Giuffrida, Noelle. Separating Sheep from Goats: Sherman E. Lee's Chinese Art Collecting in Postwar America. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018; p.59, reproduced fig. 30.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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