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The Palace Museum Held a "Special Exhibition of Buildings and Pavilions in Paintings"

by Fu Dongguang
Department of Calligraphy and Painting
Palace Museum

In conjunction with the opening of the 1999 Annual World Architects' Congress in Beijing, the "Special Exhibition of Buildings and Pavilions in Paintings" opened on 22 June in the Paintings Hall of the Palace Museum.

Chinese painting has a long history, and architectural elements, an important component of Chinese paintings, are often incorporated by the painter into the scenery. There is a kind of Chinese painting called "boundary painting," which includes architectural features as the primary subject matter. Some painters even borrowed architects' plans to create their own compositions. Because of this, ancient Chinese paintings preserve a wealth of information on historical architecture. But holding an exhibition of paintings from the point of view of architecture is still a first for the Palace Museum. For this special exhibition, nearly seventy fine architectural paintings from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties were selected. Objects in the special exhibit from before the Yuan Dynasty were on exhibit for only one week. The paintings depict palaces, temples, gardens, and vernacular dwellings. Architectural forms include pavilions, terraces, storied buildings, two-storied pavilions, pagodas, and bridges. Naturally, some of the "buildings and pavilions in paintings" are based on sketches of real scenes, while others sprung out of the painters' imaginations. But in terms of architectural composition, the painters could not have imagined these forms without foundation in reality. It is simply that their works are more extravagant than in actuality.

Based on this special exhibit, fittingly concurrent with the World Architects' Congress in Beijing, the Palace Museum will take advantage of this opportunity to supply a forthcoming reference volume to scholars of architectural history.

*Click on each image to enlarge.

(Tang, 618-906). Auspicious Snow in the Capital. Fan.

Anonymous (Yuan, 1279-1368). Dragon Boat Race (detail). Handscroll.

Anonymous (Yuan, 1279-1368). Dragon Boat Race (detail). Handscroll.

Anonymous (Qing, 1644-1911). The Hall of Seaside Tranquility at Yuanmingyuan.
Engraving mounted as handscroll.

Yuan Yao (Qing, active ca. 1739-1788). Imminent Mountain Rain. Hanging scroll.

Yuan Jiang (Qing, active ca. 1680-1730). Gazing at the Waves. Hanging scroll.

Yuan Shangtong
(Ming, 1368-1644).
Boat and Bridge at Dawn
. Hanging scroll.

Xie Shichen (Ming, 1487-ca.1560).
The Yueyang Tower
Hanging scroll.

Anonymous (Qing, 1644-1911). View of the Yiheyuan (Summer Palace).
Hanging scroll.

Anonymous (Song, 960-1279). Profound Halls and the Delightful Qin. Fan mounted as album leaf.

Xia Yong (Yuan, active 14th c.). The Yueyang Tower. Fan mounted as album leaf.

Anonymous (Qing, 1644-1911). The Qianlong Emperor Observing Peacocks.
Painting mounted on screen.

Xu Yang (Qing, active 18th c. ).
Poetic Feeling at the Coming of Spring in the Capital. Hanging scroll.

Zhang Zeduan (Song, active beginning of 12th c.). Qingming shanghe tu (Spring Festival on the River).


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