Eighty-seven Immortals (八十七神仙卷) by Wu Daozi (吳道子). Ink on silk handscroll. ca. 685–758 BCE.
Wu Daozi was a master painter of the Tang Dynasty. Born in the Henan province of China, Wu lived from circa 680 BCE to circa 760 BCE. Throughout his prolific career, Wu painted many Buddhist and Daoist murals. Wu was given the name Daoxuan by Emperor Xuanzhong after gaining appointment to the imperial court as the official painter. Due to Wu’s sage-like status in Chinese art history, critics regard him as divine and much of his life history intersects with myth and legend.
“八十七神仙卷” translatets to “eighty-seven immortals,” or “eighty seven celestial people.” During the Kaiyuan Era, reigning Emperor Xuanzhong allegedly commissioned this intricate piece to Wu for his recently-passed mother. The top image is the full scroll, and the following three images allow a closer look at the painting in three segments. An exemplary model of traditional 白描 (baimiao) style, which referes to an ordinary or plain painting style, the piece now resides in the Xu Beihong Memorial Museum in Beijing.