A popular Chan (Buddhist) personality, Han-shan is known mainly through the T'ang dynasty (618-906) anthology Cold Mountain Poems (Han-Shan Shih). The poems describe the amiable hermit as wearing simple clothing and living a carefree life as a wanderer on Cold Mountain (Han-shan). An unkempt Han-shan is shown sitting cross-legged, holding a brush beneath a tree tangled with vines. The inkstone and scroll on the ground beside him identify him as a poet. While Han-shan had a Buddhist outlook, he is shown here wearing a girdle of leaves carrying a double gourd, accessories associated with the Taoist immortals. Han-shan, in fact, followed popular Taoist practices and his poetry makes a number of references to philosophical and religious Taoism as well as the quest for long life and immortality. Han-shan was considered a san sheng or "saintly person of unofficial status."
This painting has been attributed on stylistic grounds to Chiang Kuei, a follower of the Che school master of wet-ink painting Wu Wei (1459-1508).