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

The sandalwood tree towers over the water,

And casts its shadow over the curiously shaped rocks

This traveler wears a lotus leaf for a hat and crosses the bridge

To visit the gods and immortals, where is he headed?

This poem by Confucian scholar Murase Kōtei (1746–1818), inscribed at the top of Crossing a Mountain Stream by a Bridge, directs our attention to the lone traveler who crosses the bridge in the foreground of the painting. The mountains that tower over him seem to lean away from his direction of travel. For much of his life, Buson himself was a poet—it was only out of financial necessity that he began to paint as he got older. He practiced short-form haikai poetry (commonly known as haiku), and his paintings are accordingly rooted not in the literati language of classical Chinese poetry but in the abbreviated imagery of this domestic genre, which celebrates the minutiae of everyday life. The persona of the solitary traveler features in some of Buson’s most memorable poems and paintings, moving through landscapes characterized by intense attention to the details of season, climate, and time of day.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Yosa Buson, Japanese (Settsu 1716 - 1784)
Crossing a Mountain Stream by a Bridge
Work Type
hanging scroll, painting
c. 1778–83
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Edo period, 1615-1868
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3500, Special Exhibitions Gallery
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
painting proper: H. 100 × W. 34.2 cm (39 3/8 × 13 7/16 in.)
overall mounting, including roller ends and suspension cord: H. 198.8 × W. 55.8 cm (78 1/4 × 21 15/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • seal: top, intaglio: Sha Chōkō-in
  • seal: bottom, intaglio: Shunsei
  • inscription: Sha-in
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

Yosa Buson meisakuten : tokubetsuten, botsugo nihyakunen kinen, exh. cat., Yamato Bunkakan (Nara, 1983), p. 53, plate 19

Buson gafu, Mainichi Shinbun Sha. (Tokyo, Japan, 1984), plate 28

Sasaki Jōhei, Buson zenshu vol. VI, Kodansha Publisher (Tokyo, Japan, 1992), #466, p. 315

Kōno Motoaki, Shincho Nihon bijutsu bunko: Yosa Buson, Shinchosha (Tokyo, Japan, 1996), illus. #27

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), p. 80, cat. 28

Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 55, fig. 42

Exhibition History

Yosa no Buson, Yamato Bunkakan, Nara, 10/07/1883 - 11/13/1983

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