Nine Dragons (painting)

Nine Dragons or 九龍圖卷 (陳容) is a handscroll painting by Chinese artist Chen Rong from 1244. Depicting the apparitions of dragons soaring amidst clouds, mists, whirlpools, rocky mountains and fire, the painting refers to the dynamic forces of nature in Daoism. The depicted dragons are associated with nine sons of the Dragon King, while the number nine itself is considered auspicious in Chinese astrology and folk beliefs.[1]

Nine Dragons
Detail: One of the dragons from the scroll
ArtistChen Rong
TypeInk and color on Xuan paper
Dimensions46.3 cm × 1496.4 cm (18.2 in × 589.1 in)
LocationMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston

Areas of the painting are spattered with drops of ink, either flung or blown onto the surface in a manner similar to action painting. This is a conscious evocation of rain and may even be a rainmaking ritual by the artist; lines 32 and 33 of Chen Rong's poetic inscription describe how his dragons either could, or did, produce rainfall:[2]

In the world people longed for sustained rain.

Suoweng [that is, I] sketched forth Nine Dragons

The painting features multiple inscriptions and stamps. The left side features various colophons, including those by Zhang Sicheng and Dong Sixue, a Song dynasty official. Two inscriptions on the painting were made by the artist's own hand.[3] The dating is based on one of them. According to the inscription placed at the end of the painting, the work was inspired by two other paintings, Cao Ba's Nine Horses and Nine Deers, attributed to Huichong.[3] A later inscription by the Qianlong Emperor says that besides praising Chen Rong's painting, Qianlong ordered a court painter to make a copy of it.[3] Qianlong also impressed several seals on the original painting, whose text appreciate the work.[clarification needed]

The complete scroll. It is read right to left.


In the 17th century the scroll was in the possession of Geng Zhaozhong (1640–1686) son of Prince Geng Jimao and court attendant to the Shunzhi Emperor. The Qianlong Emperor (1711–1799) passed it to the Jiaqing Emperor (1760–1820) and it was probably given by one of the later Qing emperors[4] to Prince Gong (1833–1898). It was later owned by New York art dealers Yamanaka and Co. who in 1917 sold it to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston for $25,000.[5]


  1. ^ Ponte Ryūrui. "Nine Sons of The Dragon King". Beyond Calligraphy. Retrieved 17 October 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Silbergeld, Jerome; Wang, Eugene Y. (2016). The Zoomorphic Imagination in Chinese Art and Culture. University of Hawaii Press. p. 267. ISBN 9780824846763.
  3. ^ a b c "Nine Dragons". Digital Scrolling Paintings Project. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Zhang Hongxing, "The Nineteenth-Century Provenance of the Admonitions Scroll: A Hypothesis," in Gu Kaizhi and the Admonitions Scroll, ed. S. McCausland (London, 2003), p. 278.
  5. ^ Museum of Fine Arts Boston 17.1697