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Zhang Xian's Ten Odes: Counterpoint Table of Contents

On the Inauthenticity of Ten Odes by Zhang Xian of the Northern Song Dynasty

Wu Gan
China Central Institute of Fine Arts

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Ten Odes, by Zhang Xian (990-1078) of the Northern Song dynasty, was in the collection of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) inner court, according to the second edition of the imperial inventory Shiqu baoji (completed 1793) and the Shiqu suibi (Notes on the Shiqu baoji, completed 1793 by Ruan Yuan, 1764-1849). Afterwards, the painting left the palace as one of the items stolen away from the Palace Museum by the last Qing emperor Puyi (1906-1967). In October 1995, The Palace Museum in Beijing bought it back during the autumn sales of the Hanhai Auction Company autumn sales for a price of RMB18 million.

Although the painting comes from the Qing imperial collection and has been vetted as an authentic work of Zhang Xian, this author meticulously examined the entire painting and analyzed it with regard to the textual evidence, and can prove without a doubt that it is spurious. The earliest record of this painting is in the entry for "Master Zhang's Ten Odes," in Qi dong ye yu (Wild Words from East of Qi), by Zhou Mi (1232-1298) of the Southern Song, indicating that he and his father Zhou Jin (or Zhou Mingshu) acquired the painting. This detailed account of possession by the Zhou family is in fact the first reliable documentation of Ten Odes. Furthermore, it provides the foundation upon which to judge the authenticity of the painting.

This author carefully compared this painting with the account in Qi dong ye yu as well as in other documents*, and discovered several careless errors. A brief outline follows:



The ten narrative poems (yong) referred to in the painting and those recorded in Qi dong ye yu diverge in 27 places. Among the poems on the painting, the number of omissions and inaccuracies increases, and there are obvious inconsistencies in the rhymes.

Prefaces and inscriptions

nscriptions by Sun Jue (Southern Song), Chen Zhensun (Northern Song), and Xian Yushu (Yuan) all contain questionable sections. For example, several portions written by Sun and Chen do not correspond to the Qi dong ye yu. In addition, contradictions appear in Chen Zhensun's discussion relating to the period before and after Zhang Xian produced this painting and in Xian Yushu's commenting on his complete ignorance of Zhang Xian's and Xian Yushi's generation and the friendship between the two men, etc.

Collectors' seals

The Song dynasty seal of Jia Sidao is a forgery.


The period style, painting technique, and calligraphy all demonstrate that this painting diverges considerably from the work by the painter Zhang Xian.

*Including the second edition of the Shiqu baoji and Song xue zhai ji (Collected Works from the Pine and Snow Studio, 1991) by Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), among others.

For another viewpoint, see "Zhang Xian's Ten Odes" in this issue.

Two other articles, "New Discoveries of Calligraphy and Painting. . ." and "Exhibition of Treasures of Painting and Calligraphy Acquired by the Palace Museum over the Last 50 Years," also mention Ten Odes.

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Yin Jinan
China Central Institute of Fine Arts

Nixi Cura

On the State of the Field
Scholarship in the History of Ancient Painting in the 1990s

by Xue Yongnian

Puyi's Legacy
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
"Grand Exhibition of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years"

Palace Museum Symposium
Academic Symposium Accompanying the
"Grand Exhibition of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years" at the Palace Museum
by Wang Qi

Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum Holds A Symposium on Its Exhibition of Masterpieces
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


Important Results from the Liao Tomb Excavation at Jarud Qi
by Tala, Yang Jie, and Dong Linxin

Three Eastern Han Tombs with Wall Paintings at Otog
by Wang Dafang and Yang Zemeng

"Appreciation and Analysis of the Murals Unearthed from a Song Tomb at Wang Shang Village in Dengfeng, Henan Province
by Zhang Songlin and Zhang Deshui

"A Breakthrough in the Interpretation of the 'Stone Carvings' at Junshan"
by Chen Xiangyuan

"Notes on the Excavation of Han Tomb No. 1 at Huxi Mountain, Yuanling"
by Guo Weimin

"Animal Designs and Chinese Script on the 'Five Stars of the East Favor the Central Kingdom' Brocade"
by Li Ling

Extracts from China Archaeology and Art Digest 3:2/3 (January 2000): Painting and Pictorial Arts
Ding Xiyuan on Quehua qiuse tu
Hao Junhong on Ma Shouzhen
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

"The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries from the People's Republic of China"
by Andrew K. Y. Leung

The Qingming shanghe Scroll and Qingming shanghe Studies
by Wang Qi

On Qingming shanghe Studies
by Nie Chongzheng

Chai Zejun: Collected Works on Ancient Architecture

Fifty Years of Archaeology in New China

Back Issues

Volume 1, Issue 1
(October 1999)

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