20 characters in 2 lines + 2-char. signature
Four characters in pencil on edge of rolled scroll
The mallow family of plants includes hibiscus, such as the species pictured here. Standing tall behind the fantastic form of a garden rock, the pristine flowers are likened in the painting’s inscription to a lady with a pure heart:
Leaves are like cutouts of jade. Flowers strive to outshine gold. They are without a trace of makeup. Just with their hearts toward the sun.
Beyond representations of nature, such paintings are said to embody the human spirit. With the growing importance of garden culture among the Ming dynasty literati, an elite class of educated scholar-officials, gardens often became synonymous with their owners, and paintings of gardens or flowers often served to reflect virtue or humility.
Wen C. Fong, Images of the mind: selections from the Edward L. Elliott family and John B. Elliott collections of Chinese calligraphy and painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University, (Princeton, NJ: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1984).
"Acquisitions of the Art Museum 1980", Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 40, no. 1 (1981): p. 14-31.