Chinese scholar's rocks

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Gongshi (Scholar's rock) in Wenmiao temple, Shanghai

Chinese scholars' rocks (Chinese: 供石; pinyin: gōngshí), also known as scholar stones or viewing stones, are naturally occurring or shaped rocks which are traditionally appreciated by Chinese scholars.[1]

Scholars rocks can be any color, and contrasting colors are not uncommon. The size of the stone can also be quite varied: scholars rocks can weigh either hundreds of pounds or less than one pound.[2] The term also identifies stones which are placed in traditional Chinese gardens.


In the Tang dynasty, a set of four important qualities for the rocks were recognized. They are: thinness (shou), openness (tou), perforations (lou), and wrinkling (zhou).[1]

Chinese scholar's rocks influenced the development of Korean suseok and Japanese suiseki.[3]


The origin of the stone is a notable feature.

Lingbi stone from Anhui. Ming Dynasty, 15th century


The aesthetics of a scholar's rock is based on subtleties of color, shape, markings, surface, and sound. Prized qualities include:

Scholar's rock illustration, 11th century

The stone may be displayed on a rosewood pedestal that has been carved specifically for the stone. The stones are a traditional subject of Chinese paintings.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Metropolitan Museum of Art, "The World of Scholars' Rocks Gardens, Studios, and Paintings"; retrieved 2012-12-20.
  2. ^ Harvard Shanghai Center, "Scholar Stone"; retrieved 2012-12-20.
  3. ^ Brokaw, Charles. (2011). The Temple Mount Code, p. 73.
  4. ^ a b Cousins, Craig. (2006). Bonsai Master Class, p. 246.
  5. ^ Lingbi Stone and Asian Art Collection. (2014)
  6. ^ Cousins, p. 247.
  7. ^ a b c d e Mendelson, John. "Chinese scholars' rocks simultaneously original and simulacrum" at, 1996; retrieved 2012-12-20>
  8. ^ Smith, Roberta (1996-05-31). "ART REVIEW;Old Chinese Rocks: Rorschach Blots In 3 Dimensions". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  9. ^ Harvard Museums, "Scholar's rock", 1993 painting; Linrothe, Robert N. (2004). Paradise and Plumage: Chinese Connections in Tibetan Arhat Painting, p. 24; retrieved 2012-12-20.

Further reading[edit]

  • Little, Stephen, Spirit stones of China, the Ian and Susan Wilson collection of Chinese stones, paintings, and related scholars' objects, Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, 1999, ISBN 0-86559-173-3

External links[edit]

Media related to Scholar's rocks at Wikimedia Commons