The Qingming shanghe Scroll
and Qingming shanghe Studies
Assistant Curator of Ancient Painting and Calligraphy
Palace Museum, Beijing
This is the text-only version.
Click here if you wish to see illustrations
Click here if you wish to see illustrations,
and Chinese-language annotations.
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
The Northern Song painter Zhang Zeduan (active early 12th c.) portrays
the capital Dongjing (now modern-day Kaifeng in Henan province) in the
Qingming shanghe scroll. A masterpiece of Chinese painting, it
shows a bustling scene of the city during the Spring Festival and a
society in all of its facets. In addition, its historical documentary
value cannot be overlooked. Since its inception, the painting has influenced
many other copies and imitations, and even these are sought after by
collectors. To our knowledge, surviving versions of the Qingming
shanghe scroll in and out of China number in the dozens. Counting
only the versions shown at the special exhibition of the Qingming
shanghe scroll at the Palace Museum in Bejing in 1999, we already
have seven copies. In the history of Chinese painting, it is rare to
see a work which has spawned so many progeny, so to speak.
Studies of the Qingming shanghe scroll had already begun in the
first half of the 20th century, and there has been a lot of progress
to this day. A work of close to 200,000 Chinese characters, The
Qingming shanghe Scroll and Qingming shanghe Studies (Henan
University Press, June 1997) reflects the culmination of over ten years
of scholarship by its author Zhou Baozhu. Embarking on this study, Zhou
has the "homefield advantage" � Zhou lived in the ancient capital of
Kaifeng for over forty years. In the preface, Zhou points out that in
conducting research, other than historical documents and the painting
itself, she often went to the outer perimeters of the city of Kaifeng
to conduct field research. As a result, Zhou was able to point out that
the trees before and after the Spring Festival season in the city's
vicinity are appropriately depicted in the Qingming shanghe scroll,
contradicting some scholars' view that the season depicted is autumn.
Zhou also took advantage of her knowledge of Song history to direct
the reader's perspective in every single vignette, a shift from many
previous scholars' preference to approach it through the perspective
of art. In addition, Zhou deftly narrates the painting through its representations
of architecture, transportation, and economic activity.
After reading Zhou's book, I find it has three distinctive characteristics:
(1) Using topics as organizing principles
in the presentation and analysis of the painting. The first
three chapters � "The Eastern capital Kaifeng, "Qingming shanghe",
"Zhang Zeduan and the Eastern capital painting academy" � gives
the reader a comprehensive picture of Kaifeng in the Northern
Song dynasty. Later, the author separates objects in the painting
into twenty-one different categories, such as trees, vegetable
fields in the outskirts of the city, boats, vehicles, rainbow
bridge, buildings, city wall, herbal shops, watering holes, wine
shops, tax collection, and beggars, etc. These categories are
then further analyzed. For example, Zhou explains the reasons
why the willow trees planted on both sides of the Bian River are
short with thick trunks, but with fine and delicate branch tips.
Elsewhere, she uses "Liu family's fine scented wood and incense
shop" as a point of departure to discuss the Song dynasty practice
of using and trading fragrances.
(2) The book concentrates on innovative
findings, rather than being restricted by established views.
In recent years, there have been many studies of the Qingming
shanghescroll. However, Zhou asserts her own opinions rather than
remaining hindered by previous scholarship. One of her refreshing
views contends that the reason why there is very little biographical
information on Zhang Zeduan is because Zhang's true-to-life depictions
of beggars and begging scenes went contrary to Emperor Huizong's
propaganda campaign for a peaceful and prosperous society.
(3) The book's findings are based on
solid evidence. The book's citations and annotations, bibliography,
reference works are abundant and organized clearly. Not only are
various primary texts and recent studies cited, but articles in
smaller publications are also included. This documentation bolsters
the persuasiveness of Zhou's arguments. For example, in the discussion
of the relationship between hand-held fans and the Spring Festival,
she cites a record showing how people often used fans during gambling
in the Cold Food Festival (the third day of the Spring Festival)
in Song times. This piece of evidence refutes some scholars' theory
that the portrayal of fans indicates that the season depicted
Admittedly, the book opens up some issues for debate. For example,
Zhou's acceptance of the existence of "Qingming shanghe Studies"
is still a little premature. Also, she groups categories such as Bian
regional embroidery, wood carving, and even reconstruction of ancient
streets modelled after the painting, under the umbrella of "Qingming
shanghe Studies." These issues need to be considered further.
Chongzheng's comments on this book.
here to purchase
China Central Institute of Fine Arts
On the State of the Field
Scholarship in the History of Ancient Painting in the 1990s
by Xue Yongnian
New Discoveries of Calligraphy
and Painting from the Palace Museum's "List of Lost Works"
by Liu Jianlong
A Record-Breaking Purchase by the Palace Museum
Zhang Xian's Ten Odes
by Yang Lili
Zhang Xian's Ten Odes: Counterpoint
On the Inauthenticity of Ten
Odes by Zhang Xian of the Northern Song Dynasty
by Wu Gan
Select Bibliography on Chinese Painting
Palace Museum Exhibition
"Treasures of Painting
and Calligraphy Acquired by the Palace Museum over the Last 50 Years"
by Fu Dongguang
Palace Museum Exhibition
of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years"
Palace Museum Symposium
Academic Symposium Accompanying
Exhibition of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years" at the Palace
by Wang Qi
The Shanghai Museum
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by Xue Yongnian
Liaoning Provincial Museum
An Assembly of Masterpieces,
Presented in Radiant Splendor: Record of the "Exhibition of Treasures from
the Ten Great Archaeological Discoveries in Liaoning"
by Ma Cheng
Results from the Liao Tomb Excavation at Jarud Qi
by Tala, Yang Jie, and Dong Linxin
Han Tombs with Wall Paintings at Otog
by Wang Dafang and Yang Zemeng
and Analysis of the Murals Unearthed from a Song Tomb at Wang Shang Village
in Dengfeng, Henan Province
by Zhang Songlin and Zhang Deshui
Breakthrough in the Interpretation of the 'Stone Carvings' at Junshan"
by Chen Xiangyuan
on the Excavation of Han Tomb No. 1 at Huxi Mountain, Yuanling"
by Guo Weimin
Designs and Chinese Script on the 'Five Stars of the East Favor the Central
by Li Ling
from China Archaeology and Art Digest 3:2/3 (January 2000): Painting
and Pictorial Arts
Ding Xiyuan on Quehua
Hao Junhong on Ma
Shan Guoqiang on "Haipai"
Yu Hui on Yuan court artists
Macao Art Museum
"The Efflorescence of a Prosperous Age: Fine Works of Qing Dynasty Painting
and Objects of the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong Reigns in the Collection
of the Palace Museum"
National Gallery, Washington, DC
Age of Chinese Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries from the People's Republic
by Andrew K. Y. Leung
Qingming shanghe Scroll and Qingming shanghe Studies
by Wang Qi
by Nie Chongzheng
Chai Zejun: Collected
Works on Ancient Architecture
Years of Archaeology in New China
Volume 1, Issue 1 (October 1999)