Ding Yanyong’s interest in the art of Bada Shanren (1625 - 1705) sprouted as early as the 1930s. Through Wu Changshuo (1844 - 1927), the "Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou", Bada Shanren, Xu Wei (1521 - 1593) and bronze inscriptions, Ding came to understand the beauty of Chinese lines. To dissipate the sadness and loneliness of having to live alone in Hong Kong after 1949, Ding turned to the art of Bada Shanren, Niu Shihui (1625 - 1672), Xu Wei (1521 - 1593), Shitao (1642 - 1707) and Shixi (1612 - 1692) for comfort and inspiration. Like many other men of letters who had fled to Hong Kong following the political changeover, Ding sympathized and even identified himself with these Ming descendants and subjects who were forced to live under the alien Qing regime. Bada Shanren, in particular, had a special place in his heart. Ding gave his animated subjects - fish, cats, frogs and mandarin ducks - big eyes that often roll up in contempt, stare in anger or look askance. In these works, Bada Shanren’s arrogance is transformed into humour in a style invented by Ding. Among Ding’s inventions, the frog stands out most prominently from all the rest. Characterized by big eyes and a big mouth and portrayed by just a few strokes and dark dots, his frog would sometimes leap ahead of its peers, and sometimes croak in a noisy group to voice its grievances against the injustices in life.


  • Title: Frogs in the pond
  • Creator Lifespan: 1902 - 1978
  • Creator Nationality: Chinese
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Hong Kong, China
  • Creator Birth Place: Maoming, Guangdong, China
  • Date Created: 1977
  • Theme: Frog
  • Physical Dimensions: w38 x h69.5 cm
  • History of Donation: Donated by Mr James Wong to the Museum in 2009
  • Chinese Painting teacher at Department of Fine Arts of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Painter: Ding Yanyong
  • Artist's Biography: Reputed as “Matisse of the East” and “Bada Shanren of modern times”, Ding Yanyong (1902 - 1978) explored his own artistic path to span the boundaries of Chinese and Western art, thus adding a glorious chapter to the history of Chinese art in the 20th century. In the 1920s, he left his Guangdong hometown for Japan and enrolled in the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He took the styles of Matisse and Fauvism as the basis of his own art, and became an active promoter of modern art and art education after his return to China. From the 1930s, he began studying Chinese painting through the art of Qing masters Bada Shanren (1625 - 1705), Shitao (1642 - 1707) and Jin Nong (1687 - 1764) and collecting ancient implements which marked a life-long exploration of synthesizing Chinese and Western art. In 1949, he moved to Hong Kong where he lived alone. In 1956, he helped to start a special art course at the New Asia College (the predecessor of the Department of Fine Arts of The Chinese University of Hong Kong) and taught there until he passed away in 1978. Over the years, he faced adversity with stoic stamina and continued his artistic pursuit. With his mastery of a diverse spectrum of media for creation, i.e., painting in oil and ink, calligraphy and seal-engraving, he was able to achieve an interplay that was to form his original and iconic style.
  • Type: Ink on paper

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