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On Qingming shanghe Studies

Nie Chongzheng
Research Fellow
Palace Museum, Beijing

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Translator's note: Since it is still being debated whether "qingming" refers to the Spring Festival, or a noun meaning peace and order, for the sake of a less ambiguous translation, I shall keep the title in pinyin, rather than using the better known English title, Spring Festival by the River. Some recent scholarly inquiries on the Qingming shanghe scroll, with overviews of Western, Chinese, and Japanese scholarship, are published in the Journal of Sung-Yuan Studies 26 (1996) and 27 (1997). IL

If a single novel could become the focus of an entire scholarly subject, as Dream of the Red Chamber has been, then the equivalent phenomenon in painting is summarized in the book entitled "Qingming shanghe tu" and Qingming shanghe Studies. The author, Zhou Baozhu, chronicles primary and secondary documents relating to the Qingming shanghe scroll, separating them into different topics: (1) the Eastern capital Kaifeng; (2) "Qingming shanghe"; (3) Zhang Zeduan and the Dongjing (Kaifeng) painting academy; (4 & 5) analysis of the content of the painting (parts 1 and 2); (6) the controversy over the authenticity of the Qingming shanghe scroll; (7) the portrayal of the city, its location, and scenery in the painting; and (8) questions relating to Qingming shanghe Studies. The author also gives an overview of a wide range of related documentary evidence, summarizes previous scholarship, and further analyzes the painting.

Studies of the novel Dream of the Red Chamber involve an additional important component -- the investigation of its author Cao Xueqin's background. Many scholars choose this topic for their publications, giving birth to "Cao Studies," or the so-called "Extra-Red Line." As for the Qingming shanghe scroll artist Zhang Zeduan (active early 12th c.), could he also become topic of a branch of specialized study? I think that if there are no new discoveries, such a trend could not sustain itself solely on the colophon written at the end of the painting by Zhang Zhe.*

*Zhang Zhe was the Curator of Painting at the Jin court. His colophon on the Qingming shanghe scroll, identifying the painter as Zhang Zeduan, is dated 1186.

See Wang Qi's review of this book.

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Back Issues

Volume 1, Issue 1
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