The poem in this scroll, A Poem Dedicated to Friends at a Mountain Gathering during My Illness in Fall is included in the seventh volume of the anthology Hui'an Scholar Zhu Wen Gong Literary Collection, and the original title is A Poem Dedicated to Huang Zihou, Liu Pingfu, and other Friends at a Mountain Gathering during My Illness in Fall. The poem is five-character prose with thirty rhymes and totals a hundred and fifty words. In the present scroll, the first nine sentences and three additional characters (forty-eight characters in total) are missing, with only thirty sentences and two additional characters remaining (a hundred and two characters in total). At the end of the preface of the poem, Zhu Xi again signed "This poem is dedicated to Shu Zhong and other friends" with the signature reading Hui Weng. (Unfortunately, this dedication is missing from the anthology.) Three Yuan dynasty poets, Yu Zhuo, Ye Heng, and Cheng Yangquan, added colophons following the poem. This scroll by Zhu Xi was given to his pupil Ye Hesun and his family. During the Xuantong and Chenghua periods in the Ming dynasty, the seventh generation descendant Ye Gonghui inscribed the scroll twice and described the provenance of the scroll. Finally in the sixth year of Xianfeng (1856), Qi Junzao affirmed the historical context of this scroll by Zhu Xi, confirming the poem was written in the seventh year of the Chunxi era in the Song dynasty (1180) when Zhu Xi was fifty-one years old.
More specifically, Yu Zhuo wrote, "Hui Weng (Zhu Xi) regards Shu Zhong as his favorite student, therefore Shu Zhong understands that the reason Zhu Xi is ill is mostly because of his concern for the drought." These three sentences rhythm well with Zhu Xi's inscription at the end of the poem, "This poem is dedicated to my friends, in particular to Shu Zhong, who traveled all the way out here."
Ye Heng stated, "Entrusted with responsibility of drought-relief by the imperal court, Zhu Xi is concerned with the public's sufferings while he himself is still sick... the osmanthus blossom is falling." It echoes the eighth sentence in Zhu Xi's poem, saying "the imperial court is deeply concerned with the drought illness in fall and the osmanthus tree is in its late blossom."
Cheng Yangquan added, "The Demon of Drought comes for no reason. Just as sickness never goes away." These two sentences again reflect the poem by Zhu Xi, "I was in illness in the fall, and my illness became worse because of the drought."
At the end of his poem, Zhu Xi recorded that "Shu Zhong visited and asked for my writing." Shu Zhong was a favorite pupil of Zhu Xi. Also, according to the anthology of Zhu Xi's poetry, the friends mentioned at the end of this poem are Huang Zihou, Liu Pingfu and other friends from the valley. Finally, this work was owned by the legendary calligraphy master Ye Hesun, who was the primary pupil in Zhu Xi's later life. Ye's seventh generation descendant Ye Gonghui (1355-1435) commented on his ancestor's vast collection of Zhu Xi's calligraphy and his devotion to Zhu Xi's writing. Most of the collection has been lost except for this scroll. This scroll was passed down within the Ye family for many generations, from Ye Hesun to Ye Gonghui's great-great-grandfather Feidun Wen, to great-grandfather Nanxuan Wen, to grandfather Keyi Wen, and finally to his father Risi Chushi. In 1468, wuzi year in the Chenghua period, Ye Gonghui composed another colophon, confirming the poem was written in the seventh year of the Chunxi period in the Song dynasty (1180), when the Jiangnan area was hit by serious drought.
Among Zhu Xi's calligraphic works, most are letters or small works in running cursive style. One example with large characters was donated to the National Palace Museum, Taipei by Lin Zongyi. The only other remaining large-character calligraphy in cursive style by Zhu Xi is Singing in the South of the City, which is now in the National Palace Museum, Beijing. While the size of the characters in that work are about one inch (three centimeters) tall, the calligraphy in this scroll is about 10 inches tall for the smallest characters, and 25 inches for the largest ones. Therefore, this scroll is one of the few which still exists of Zhu Xi's large-character calligraphy.
The calligraphy style and the paper's appearance support this artwork's authenticity. The work retains the influence of Mi Fu and Song Gaozong. Although the work is in large cursive style, it shares much resemblance with the calligraphy in regular style found in Zhu Xi's Singing in the South of the City in the Beijing National Palace Museum. Specifically, thirty-three characters can be compared to identify the similarities between both masterpieces.