In his inscription, the artist Gion Nankai links himself to two important Chinese painters of yesteryear, placing himself in the grand historical lineage of amateur Chinese painters. By writing in the anciet "small seal" script, popular in China almost 2,000 years earlier, Nankai asserts the "Chinese-ness" of his painting and inscription.
The inscription explains that this landscape was "painted after Solitary Fishing in a Ravine of Flowers by the Woodcutter of Yellow Mountain." The "Woodcutter" is Wang Meng (1308-1385), a celebrated amateur painter active in China 500 years earlier. The upper two thirds of Nankai's landscape closely resemble a work by Wang Meng that is now in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. Nankai must have known Wang Meng's landscape through copies that made their way to Japan over the years.
The inscription goes on to say, "I have incorporated the style of Wang Youcheng," an alternate name for Wang Wei (699-759), the great Chinese scholar, poet, and painter who was see as the originator of amateur landscape painting of the kind promoted by Wang Meng in the 1300s and Gion Nankai in Japan in the 1700s.
The scholar in the boat looks up toward the magnificent peaks and waterfalls that fill the upper two-thirds of the painting—a dramatic Chinese mountainscape that doubles as Wang Meng's original painting. Becoming the scholar in the boat, we look upon the landscape as well as a grand lineage of Chinese amateur painting. Through this painting, Gion Nankai positions himself as the heir to that lineage.