Chinese Scholar’s Rocks from the University of Florida Harn Museum of Art

The University of Florida‘s Harn Museum of Art at Gainesville is a small museum with wings dedicated to African, American and Asian arts and traveling exhibits. I visited this museum in 2009 and in 2013 when my younger son was doing his graduate study at UF. I was surprised to see several high quality antique Chinese scholar’s rocks (Gongshi, 供石) displayed in their Cofrin Asian Art Wing.

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A group of Chinese scholar’s rocks in the new Cofrin Asian Art Wing. The background is a Japanese garden.

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A 19th-20th century Lingbi Stone.

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When I visited the museum in 2009, the above Lingbi stone was displayed besides a scroll painting, painted in 1911 by Huang Shanshou 黄山壽 (1855-1919) and dedicated to another famous artist Yuli (俞礼 子達夫 1862-1922) on his 50th birthday. Lingzhi mushrooms, which signify longevity in Chinese culture, were added to the rock in the painting. Note the different lighting conditions changed the color hue of the rock.

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Stand for the above stone on top of a taller one makes this stone stands very tall.

I almost could not recognize the following Taihu (Great Lake) stone from my 2009 visit. It was placed in a corner and the stone appeared very holey at that viewing angle. In my 2013 visit, this stone was displayed so that one could see it all around, and it looked different at different angles.

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A late 19th century Taihu stone entitled “Birds Flocking Among Incense Couds.”

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The same Taihu stone viewed at a different angle, becomes less holey.

The next scholar’s rock is a black “linglong” (玲珑) stone. This kind of stone is normally carved to look like a mythical beasts, a dragon in this case, with a lot movements and cloud-like folds, indentations etc.

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Labeled as a 19-20th century Chinese scholar’s rock – black stone. This could be a Ying stone. The tall and large stone is supported by steel bar to prevent it from toppling.

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The head looks like a dragon head.

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A 19th-20th century Bent Scholar’s Rock – Lingbi stone.

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A very elaborate carved stand.

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A 19th century Branched Scholar’s Rock – Lingbi stone.

The following stone was displayed during my first visit, but not in my 2013 visit. It is a black stone, either a Ying or Lingbi limestone, in the shape of a coiled dragon. The form is similar to “pig-dragon” jade pieces found in Chinese neolithic Hongshan culture, 3800-2700 BCE.

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There were several Chinese scholar’s rock exhibitions held at various art institutes in the past. The most famous was from the late Richard Rosenblum’s collections at the Harvard University Art Museum. A book, entitled “Worlds Within Worlds”, was published for the exhibition. It is full of information on Chinese scholar’s rocks. The other exhibition book I have is the “Sprit Stones of China” from the Ian and Susan Wilson collections exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. It is out of print but can be viewed online from the University of California Press webpage.

Several books on Chinese scholar’s rocks by Kemin Hu are still in print, and the latest is a large format book, Spirit Stones The Ancient Art of the Scholar’s Rock, with stunning photographs by Johnathon M. Singer.

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