A Hundred Deer of Prosperity (百祿圖)
Anonymous, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 45.6 x 290 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
At the scroll's beginning on the right are peaks and running water with pines and rocks shading the banks. Depicted there is a herd of deer frolicking, feeding, and resting in various poses, filling the work with great vitality. In the scenery are several leaf-clad youths picking spirit fungus and holding bamboo wicker baskets as they proceed through the hills. It is said that spirit fungus (靈芝, "immortal grass") extends life. Here, "hundred" is also a term signifying "many" and the word for "deer (鹿)" in Chinese a homophone for "prosperity (祿)." Meaning literally "great fortune," it is an auspicious theme conveying wishes for joy and good luck. This work is unsigned, but the subject and style suggest the hand of a court painter of the middle Ming dynasty.