This is one of the greatest surviving masterpieces by the Northern Song calligrapher Huang Tingjian. He wrote the poem in 1102 as he traveled through Wuchang and calligraphed it as a handscroll probably afterwards. In the Southern Song, the scroll passed through the collection of the prime minister Jia Sidao (賈似道, 1213–1275) and then came into the possession of Princess Xiangge Ciji (祥哥剌吉, ca. 1283–1331) in the Yuan dynasty.
Princess Xiangge Ciji was the great-granddaughter of Kublai Khan (忽必烈, r. 1260–1294). Influenced by her father and grandfather, she exhibited a strong interest in Chinese culture. In 1311, her younger brother Renzong assumed the throne and she was given the title “Huangjie Dazhang Gongzhu (皇姊大長公主)” (“Grand Princess, Elder Sister of the Emperor”). Since both her and her brother expressed a keen interest in collecting painting and calligraphy, the court was filled with an atmosphere of arts and culture. She also adopted the Chinese custom using collection seals, with hers reading “Huangjie Tushu (皇姊圖書)” (“Library of the Emperor’s Elder Sister”) and “Huangjie Zhenwan (皇姊珍玩)” (“Treasure of the Emperor’s Elder Sister”). At the top right of this scroll is her seal “Huangjie Tushu”.
On April 28, 1323, the Princess held an elegant gathering of scholars and officials and a banquet at the Tianqing Temple (天慶寺) on the outskirts of the capital Dadu (modern Beijing). There, they appreciated painting and calligraphy together. With the Director of the Palace Library Li Shilu (李師魯) as host, officials of Chinese, Mongol, and other ethnic backgrounds gathered to judge works of painting and calligraphy. Afterwards, Yuan Jue (袁桷, 1266–1327) made a record of the event and composed from memory a list of the painting and calligraphy that they inscribed. This record indicates that this scroll was one of the works they viewed. The end of the scroll reveals 14 colophons by contemporary scholars and officials.
Although the exact details of the event remain obscure, the transmission and inscriptions by contemporaries reveal that elegant gatherings on the subject of painting and calligraphy by the Yuan imperial clan were an opportunity for scholars and officials of different ethnic groups to socialize. Regardless of whether they were Mongols, Chinese, or from other ethnic groups , they all achieved a high level of cultivation in poetry, literature, painting, and calligraphy.
Before entering the Qing imperial collection, this work was viewed by such famous Ming painters and collectors as Qiu Ying (仇英) and Xiang Yuanbian (項元汴).