Photo © Photography: John Tsantes and Neil Greentree © Robert Feinberg
Gallery Text

Li Tieguai (Tekkai in Japanese) is one of the Eight Immortals, a group of legendary adepts in the Daoist pantheon. After decades of ascetic training, he achieved the ability to expel his spirit from his body. One day, while his spirit traveled to meet with other immortals, his physical body was cremated. When his spirit returned to earth, it was forced to take up residence in the corpse of a beggar. Li is shown here in this disheveled state, exhaling his spiritual self once more. Unusually, Shōhaku is said to have painted from the feet upward. The exaggerated length of this painting gives full expression to Li’s supernatural powers as he transports himself from the physical realm into the ether.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Soga Shōhaku, Japanese (Ise 1730 - 1781 Kyoto)
The Immortal Li Tieguai
Work Type
painting, hanging scroll
c. 1765
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Edo period, 1615-1868
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3600, University Research Gallery
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
painting proper: H. 126.8 × W. 27.7 cm (49 15/16 × 10 7/8 in.)
overall mounting, including roller ends and suspension cord: H. 202 × W. 52.2 cm (79 1/2 × 20 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Jasokuken Shōhaku
  • seal: top: Shōhaku
  • seal: middle: Soga Kiyū
  • seal: bottom: Razan
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Soga Shohaku burai to iu yuetsu : tokubetsu tenrankai, exh. cat., Kyoto National Museum (Kyoto, Japan, 2005), #92, pp. 289-291, 349.

Kano Hiroyuki and Rinsen Shoten, Soga Shohaku : Araburu miyako no eshi (Kyoto, Japan, 2007), #92, pp. 289-291

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), p. 131, cat. 62

Kit Brooks, "'A School unto Himself'? The Formation of Soga Shohaku (1730-81), Orientations (September 2015), vol. 46, no. 6, p. 106, fig. 2

Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 63, fig. 51

Exhibition History

Shohaku Show, Kyoto National Museum, Kyoto, 04/12/2005 - 05/15/2005

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 05/21/2013 - 07/15/2013; Miho Museum, 07/20/2013 - 08/18/2013; Tottori Prefectural Museum, 10/05/2013 - 11/10/2013

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/04/2015 - 11/29/2015

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 07/18/2021

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at