Another Look at National Treasures: Select Masterpieces of Painting and Calligraphy in the Museum Collection,Period: October 4 to December 25, 2018,Gallery: 210 (Northern Branch, National Palace Museum)
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Descriptions of the Works

  • Autumn Woods and Flying Cascade
    Autumn Woods and Flying Cascade
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    Autumn Woods and Flying Cascade

    1. Fan Kuan (ca. 950-ca. 1031), Song dynasty
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 181 x 99.5 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure

         Fan Kuan, a native of Huayuan in Shaanxi, originally had the name Zhongzheng. Due to his magnanimous character, people at the time called him Fan "Kuan." In painting landscapes, he used short and vigorously strong strokes with thick ink tones. He was particularly gifted at expressing the majesty and impressiveness of the land and the texture and weight of mountains.
         This painting bears neither seal nor signature of the artist, but the compilers of Third Volume of Treasured Cases of the Stone Moat, one in a series of Qing dynasty imperial catalogues, attributed it to Fan Kuan. Below towering trees and peaks is a deep and isolated mountain valley. Red maple leaves fill the scene and fall into the flowing water. The scenery accords with a famous line of poetry by Cui Xinming (7th c.) of the Tang dynasty: "Maple leaves fall on the cold waters of River Wu." The mountain forms are rendered with a texturing of slanted brushwork and "axe-cut" strokes, which differ from the style seen in Fan's masterpiece "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams." Rather, it is closer to that of such Southern Song masters as Li Tang (1049-after 1130) and Xiao Zhao (12th c.), suggesting that the actual date of production here is not far removed from them.

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  • Seated Portrait of Song Taizu
    Seated Portrait of Song Taizu
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    Seated Portrait of Song Taizu

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 191 x 169 cm
    3. Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure

         Currently a total of four portraits in the National Palace Museum collection depict Emperor Taizu of the Song dynasty. With the exception of this hanging scroll, which depicts the emperor from head to toe, the others are bust portraits. Here, Taizu (personal name Zhao Kuangyin, 927-976; reigned 960-976), the first emperor of the Song dynasty, is shown with dark skin and wearing a light yellowish robe with a round collar and wide sleeves. He also has a jade-decorated red belt and a pair of black ornamental shoes. He wears a black angular gauze cap with horizontal extensions, giving him a dignified and impressive presence.
         This painting has neither the painter's seal nor signature. However, a small label had been attached to a blank area at the arm rest with three characters written for "Song Taizu." It probably was added when the scroll was remounted in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). According to records, Wang Ai, Mou Gu, and the monk Daohui are mentioned as having done portraits of Emperor Taizu. Unfortunately, they do not survive for comparison and cannot be used to determine if this portrait is related to these three figures.

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  • Seated Portrait of Song Renzong's Empress
    Seated Portrait of Song Renzong's Empress
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    Seated Portrait of Song Renzong's Empress

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 172.1 x 165.3 cm
    3. Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure
    4. Display period: 2018/10/04-11/14

         This painting originally was in the former collection of the Nanxun Hall at the Qing dynasty court. Although bearing no signature or seal of the artist, the appearance and spirit of the figures are well conveyed and certainly not a work of the imagination. Furthermore, the brushwork is quite precise and the coloring delicate, making it of the highest caliber and probably from the hand of a master at the time.
         During the course of his reign, Emperor Renzong had two empresses. The first was Empress Guo and the latter Empress Cisheng Guangxian, nee Cao. Since Empress Guo had been deposed at one point, this portrait is most likely a rendering of the latter. In the painting, not only are the robes and crown of the empress painted with exquisite and unparalleled ornateness, even the two attendant girls are beautifully adorned in similar clothing, their hair also decorated with delicate pins. Similar to another portrait of the empress seated alone, she appears here as extraordinarily noble and in a class of her own, making this an exceptional masterpiece of Song dynasty realism in art.

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    Calico Cat Under Noble Peonies
    Calico Cat Under Noble Peonies
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    Calico Cat Under Noble Peonies

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 141 x 107.3 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure

         Under a cluster of peonies crouches a black-and-white calico cat with a bell tied to its leash. With wide-open eyes, the cat gazes upwards with spirit. In Chinese, the word for "cat" is a homophone for "elder," referring to a man more than seventy years old. Furthermore, the peony has long been an auspicious symbol of prosperity and nobility in Chinese culture, making this work a metaphor to wish for long life and good fortune.
         The painter, although anonymous, had extraordinary observational abilities in being able to capture every detail and habit of this cat, the fluffy fur so realistic as to make it stand out in the round. The petals and leaves of the peony are also delicately outlined and filled with layers of color washes, their forms refined and classical in appearance. Painting from life was an important part of training at the Northern Song (960-1126) Painting Academy, and Xuanhe Painting Catalogue from 1120 records many paintings with titles similar to this one. Thus, despite the anonymity of this work, it probably came from the hand of a court master at the Painting Academy in the late Northern Song.

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  • Refusing the Seat
    Refusing the Seat
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    Refusing the Seat

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 146.8 x 77.3 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in June 2013 as a National Treasure

         The subject of this painting comes from a historical event that took place in the Han emperor Wendi's reign (179-157 BCE). The account states that one day, Wendi was accompanied by both his empress and favored concubine to Shanglin Park. Inner Gentleman Yuan Ang (ca. 200-148 BCE) censured the emperor, however, for allowing his concubine, Lady Shen, to breach protocol and sit alongside the emperor. He argued that such an arrangement was counter to hierarchy and bring about disorder, laying the blame on Lady Shen. Wendi humbly accepted Yuan's criticism, and later even Lady Shen presented Yuan with gold as a reward for him standing on imperial principle.
         This type of subject was originally intended to admonish the ruler, but it could also have been construed as a political message for the ruler to treat admonishment with calm and understanding. This work, bearing neither seal nor signature of the artist, features lines for the figures that are steady and strong, the trees and rocks in the garden precisely delineated with fastidious precision. The style suggests it possibly came from the hand of a court artist of the Southern Song period (1127-1279).

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    Monkey and Cats
    Monkey and Cats
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    Monkey and Cats

    1. Yi Yuanji (latter half of the 11th c.), Song dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 31.9x57.2 cm
    3. Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         Yi Yuanji, a native of what is now Changsha in Hunan, was an artist of great talent who first specialized in bird-and-flower subjects. Upon later seeing the works of Zhao Chang (10th-11th c.), he knew that he had met his match and instead turned to subjects that the ancients had never before treated, gradually focusing on the subject of monkeys and eventually achieving fame.
         In the upper left corner of this painting is an inscription by the Song emperor Huizong (1082-1135) that gives its title. To the right sits a macaque tied to a stake driven into the ground. Two kittens apparently had been passing, and the monkey grabbed one of them. Clutching it closely, the other kitten jumped away in fright and turned back to hiss. Apparently unperturbed in the least, the macaque seems to tease that kitten in a nonchalant manner. The artist, with a great sense of observation and a sensitive touch, was able to capture the interaction between the animals, conveying not only their outward appearance but also inner spirit. This work fully represents the extraordinary essence of painting from life as practiced in the Northern Song period (960-1126).

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  • Children Playing on a Winter Day
    Children Playing on a Winter Day
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    Children Playing on a Winter Day

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 196.2 x 107.1 cm
    3. Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure

         Plum and camellia are in full bloom by a Lake Taihu rock in a garden and highlighted by bamboo and orchids to make for an elegantly beautiful scene. A young sister and her little brother decked out are holding a peacock feather and colored pennant as they focus on teasing a little kitten to the side. The artist rendered every detail of the scene with incredible accuracy, this work reflecting the extraordinary achievements reached in court painting during the Northern Song period.
         The style and figures in this painting are closely related to "Children at Play in an Autumn Garden" by Su Hanchen (12th c.), suggesting they both came from the same hand. If so, they may have originally been part of a set of four works dealing with the subject of children playing in the four seasons, of which only these two survive. Su Hanchen, a native of Kaifeng, was a Painter-in-Attendance at the Painting Academy in the Xuanhe reign (1119-1125) of the late Northern Song. After the Song court was reestablished in the south, he resumed his position there in the Shaoxing reign (1131-1162). He was noted for painting Buddhist and Daoist subjects, figures, and specializing in the depiction of children.

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  • Xiao Yi Acquiring the "Orchid Pavilion Preface" by Deception
    Xiao Yi Acquiring the "Orchid Pavilion Preface" by Deception
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    Xiao Yi Acquiring the "Orchid Pavilion Preface" by Deception

    1. Yan Liben (?-673), Tang dynasty
    2. 27.4x64.7公分
    3. Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 27.4 x 64.7 cm
    4. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure
    5. Restricted Display Work
    6. Display period restricted to 2018/10/04-11/14

         Yan Liben, an important figure painter of the early Tang period, received imperial commissions to paint "The Eighteen Scholars" and portraits of meritorious officials at the Lingyan Pavilion.
         This painting illustrates the story of how Emperor Taizong (598-649) of the Tang dynasty ordered Xiao Yi to acquire by deception the "Orchid Pavilion Preface" by Wang Xizhi (303-361) in the collection of the monk Biancai. Five figures are depicted in this work; Biancai and Xiao Yi are facing each other in a diagonal arrangement in relation to the viewer. With their mouths open, they seem to be engaged in some kind of debate. A monk is also shown seated at the top between them to reinforce the sense of space in the composition. A feeling of gloom pervades the facial expression of this monk, as if hinting at Biancai's impending loss of his prized treasure. A scene of attendants preparing tea to the left adds a touch of daily life to help defuse the tension between the main characters. The style of the painting here differs from that associated with Yan Liben. One scholarly opinion is that it is the work of the Five Dynasties (907-960) artist Gu Deqian, while another has it to be a copy by a Song dynasty (960-1279) artist.

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  • Autumn Colors on the Qiao and Hua Mountains
    Autumn Colors on the Qiao and Hua Mountains
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    Autumn Colors on the Qiao and Hua Mountains

    1. Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), Yuan dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink and colors on paper, 28.4 x 93.2 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in September 2011 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/10/04-11/14

         Zhao Mengfu (style name Zi'ang) excelled at painting and calligraphy. An advocate of revivalism, he came to have a great influence on literati painting and calligraphy.
         Zhao did this painting of his travels through the area of Shandong in 1295 for Zhou Mi (1232-1298) as a way to assuage Zhou's longing for and thoughts of his ancestral homeland there. The handscroll is partitioned into three sections; the first on the right depicts Hua(buzhu) Mountain and Qiao Mountain is at the left. Both peaks are shown in the background divided in the middle by a foreground expanse of marshy land and water. The three parts form a continuous level-distance view, the scenery dotted with thatched cottages and fishermen to enliven the plain and tranquil atmosphere. Simple and introverted strokes done with a centered brush appear throughout the handscroll to portray the trees, slopes, mountains, and figures in archaic forms, representing Zhao's study of Dong Yuan's (ca. 10th c.) style. Returning to the past but adorning it with something new at the same time, the painting represents Zhao's artistic notion of borrowing from the past to create the present.

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    The Red Cliff
    The Red Cliff
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    The Red Cliff

    1. Wu Yuanzhi (fl. 1149-1189), Jin dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink on paper, 50.8 x 136.4 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         Wu Yuanzhi (style name Shanfu), a native of Beiping, excelled at painting landscapes.
         This handscroll is a visualization of Su Shi's (1037-1101) "The Red Cliff." In the handscroll Su is shown wearing a high hat with a friend in a boat below the Red Cliff. Old pines face the wind in contorted poses. Rising precipitously, the Red Cliff towers over and counters the turbulent waters and swirling rapids, making for scenery grand yet dangerous. The rocks and mountains are mostly done in centered and slanted brushwork, being first rendered with texture strokes arranged in parallel fashion to create facets of different sizes and directions. Together, they have been organized into tough and scaly rocks, to which light washes of ink were added to highlight their scaly and rough quality. This simple yet direct method gives the painting a solid yet airy sense that reflects the inheritance of and innovation on landscape painting traditions by this Jin dynasty artist.

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  • Certificate for Zhu Juchuan
    Certificate for Zhu Juchuan
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    Certificate for Zhu Juchuan

    1. Xu Hao (703-782), Tang dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink on paper, 27 x 185.8 cm
    3. Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         A "certificate" was a document of proof issued in ancient times by the government declaring a reward or appointment to office for a particular individual. This work written in 768 proclaims the appointment of Zhu Juchuan (725-783) as Chamberlain Case Reviewer concurrent with District Magistrate of Zhongli County (modern Fengyang, Anhui) and the investiture of several people. The scroll includes as well as the names and titles of the head officials for the Three Departments, making it a precious historical document for the "certificate" system of the Tang dynasty.
         The lines in the calligraphy of this piece are thick, the strokes marked by fullness in a manner similar to that of Xu Hao (703-782). The character forms, however, are slightly elongated vertically, making them different from that of Xu. Admired in the reign of Emperor Suzong (756-762), Xu Hao often wrote imperial decrees and was considered representative of official taste in Middle Tang calligraphy. However, according to Tang regulations, such documents would have been written by scribes or clerks, so this work might be a reflection of the influence of Xu's style instead.

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  • Three Passages: Ping'an, Heru, and Fengju
    Three Passages: Ping'an, Heru, and Fengju
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    Three Passages: Ping'an, Heru, and Fengju

    1. Wang Xizhi (303-361), Jin dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink on paper, 24.7 x 47.3 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/10/04-11/14

         Wang Xizhi, a famous calligrapher of the Eastern Jin period, established the paragons for modern cursive and running scripts, leading him to become known as the "Sage Calligrapher."
         "Ping'an" and "Heru" were two letters written by Wang, while "Fengju" originally was appended to the "Heru" letter. During the history of their circulation, "Ping'an" lost its last two lines and "Fengru" became an independent work. The three were mounted together in the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and inscriptions of appreciation from elsewhere by Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) and others added. The three passages here are all precise copies from the Tang dynasty done using fine outlines filled with ink, a technique also used for the date, title, and signature parts as well. The silk-like lines reveal the use of a centered brush, representing Wang's supreme balance of brush quickness, roundness, and variations to the starts and stops. The characters range in size, position, openness, and slant: No two are alike, yet all highlight each other, demonstrating the artist's great creativity.

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    Song on a Light-Transmitting Mirror
    Song on a Light-Transmitting Mirror
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    Song on a Light-Transmitting Mirror

    1. Xianyu Shu (1246-1302), Yuan dynasty
    2. Album leaf, ink on paper, 30.5 x 19.8 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure

         Xianyu Shu, whose ancestors came from Yuyang, had the style name Boji. He excelled at calligraphy and was a fine connoisseur. One of the three major calligraphers of the Yuan dynasty, he advocated a return to the styles of the previous Jin and Tang dynasties and came to have a major influence.
         The so-called "light-transmitting mirror" mentioned here is a kind of ancient bronze mirror capable of transmitting the design on its back through the reflection on a surface, and Xianyu Shu once had two such mirrors in his collection. This album was written to transcribe an ode by Ma Jiuchi (1174-1232), using this object as a metaphor for lodging emotions or perhaps related to the ancient mirror in his own collection. The work was originally a handscroll later remounted as an album, some trimming of the lines occurring in the process. Mostly centered brushwork was used throughout the work, the lines round and strong with forms open and expansive in a manner similar to the "Yihe Inscription." The upright strokes are complemented by sharp and angular brushwork similar to the styles of such Tang calligraphers as Yu Shinan (558-638) and Liu Gongquan (778-865) to create a spirited and robust manner with a majestic and powerful presence.

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  • Ode on Pied Wagtails
    Ode on Pied Wagtails
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    Ode on Pied Wagtails

    1. Xuanzong (685-762), Tang dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink on paper, 24.5 x 184.9 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         Xuanzong (personal name Li Longji) was the seventh emperor of the Tang dynasty and a man of many talents who also excelled at clerical and running script calligraphy.
         Pied wagtails often interact with each other during flight and when walking, frequently calling to one another. As early as the Classic of Poetry in ancient times, the pied wagtail has been seen as a symbol of brotherly affection. In the autumn of 721, Emperor Xuanzong witnessed a flock of a thousand pied wagtails at the palace and took out a brush to record the event on this scroll. His style of calligraphy follows directly in the style of Wang Xizhi's (303-361) "Orchid Pavilion Preface" and his "Collected Characters for the Sacred Teachings." This is evident in numerous characters throughout the handscroll, such as "le 樂," "yong 詠," "huai 懷," "zuo 左," "qu 趣," "xu 虛," and "shuang 霜." Xuanzong effectively used a slanted brush, the starts and stops to the brushwork and lines featuring angles that reveal the manner of a pointed brush tip. It creates a solemn brush force with power and steadiness, the atmosphere energetic and outward to reveal the robust beauty of High Tang calligraphy.

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    Imperial Order Presented to Yue Fei
    Imperial Order Presented to Yue Fei
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    Imperial Order Presented to Yue Fei

    1. Gaozong (1107-1187), Song dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink on paper, 37 x 61.4 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure

         Emperor Gaozong of the Song dynasty (personal name Gou) was the ninth son of Huizong (1082-1135). His calligraphy began with that of Huang Tingjian (1045-1105) and traced back to the Two Wangs (Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi) to form a style of his own.
         Emperor Gaozong wrote this order to the famous general Yue Fei (1103-1142). According to such contents as "betrayal by the Huaixi Army," it was apparently composed in the autumn of 1137, also referring to pacification and the discussion of border defenses. The calligraphy in the order ranges between regular and running script, the size of the characters varying with ample distance between the lines and the spacing quite regulated. Such characters as "sheng 盛," "shuang 霜," "han 寒," "liang 良," "dai 帶," "guan 管," "zhi 至," and "ti 體" reveal elements from Wang Xizhi's "Orchid Pavilion Preface" and his "Collected Characters for the Sacred Teachings." The character forms, however, are broader with more space between them. The brushwork is also mostly done with a slanted brush and rounded turning, the lines full and reflecting the influence of Zhiyong (6-7th c.). This work demonstrates the depth of Emperor Gaozong's achievements in imitating the ancients in calligraphy.

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  • Letter to My Friend Xisheng with a Seven-character Poem
    Letter to My Friend Xisheng with a Seven-character Poem
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    Letter to My Friend Xisheng with a Seven-character Poem

    1. Mi Fu (1051-1108), Song dynasty
    2. Album leaf, ink on paper, 30 x 33.5 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in January 2013 as a National Treasure

         Mi Fu excelled at painting and calligraphy. Also an excellent connoisseur, he has been ranked as one of the Four Masters of the Northern Song.
         This work is a letter written to Li Chun (1015-1093, style name Xisheng) early in Mi Fu's tenure as District Magistrate of Yongqiu (modern Jixian, Henan). Mi's use of the phrase "I am no talent but dare to take big office" suggests his self-confidence. At the end of the letter, he also includes a poem reminiscing about the joy of their meeting as friends. Such characters as "ju 劇," "zhichi 咫尺," "jing 敬," "yingyou 英友," and "shike 十客" feature fine connecting strokes of the brush to give a fleeting sense of fluidity and dancing movement. Other characters, including "queran 𡙇然," "qingshi 慶侍," "fengji 奉寄," and "Xisheng 希聲," appear similar to "a young lady with flowers in her hair"--tender and poised. Two characters, "huai 槐" and "yin 蔭," are done with especially thick and full lines but with a light and animated manner, making this a masterful work by Mi Fu.

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    Letters (Baoyue, Chicha)
    Letters (Baoyue, Chicha)
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    Letters (Baoyue, Chicha)

    1. Su Shi (1037-1101), Song dynasty
    2. Album leaf, ink on paper, 23.2 x 17.8 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in May 2015 as a National Treasure

         Su Shi (style name Zizhan, sobriquet Dongpo) was one of the Four Great Calligraphers of the Northern Song.
         This album leaf features two letters written by Su Shi. The right one, entitled "Baoyue," includes such lines as "in gratitude to his honor" and "pressing for the book on rituals," and it was done in 1065 for Du Shuyuan (ca. mid-11th c.). The term "his honor" is in reference to Su Shi's father, Su Xun (1009-1066), "Baoyue" to an elder in the clan (Su Weijian, 1012-1095), and "Lingzi" to Du Yi (?-1094), the son of Shuyuan. Du Yi had the style name Daoyuan and was the recipient of the left letter here composed in 1080 entitled "Chicha," where "Mengjian"refers to Du Yi's son, Du Chuan (ca. 11-12th c.). The two letters were written 15 years apart, yet both reveal the same swift brushwork, sharp lines, and dashingly free manner. The former has a greater sense of pure handsomeness compared to the latter, but the two are still treasured examples of Su Shi's calligraphy.

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  • Pure Distance of Mountains and Streams
    Pure Distance of Mountains and Streams
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    Pure Distance of Mountains and Streams

    1. Xia Gui (fl. 1195-1224), Song dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink on paper, 46.5 x 889.1 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/10/04-11/14

         Xia Gui, a native of Qiantang (Hangzhou) in Zhejiang, was a court painter of the middle Southern Song period. Because he often placed the scenery into one side of the composition, he was called "Half-side Xia."
         This painting depicts a stretch of mountains and waters intersecting each other. From different perspectives, they exhibit various combinations of land and water, some dense and others spacious, forming an exceptionally rhythmic composition that demonstrates the consummate skill of the artist in editing scenery. Xia Gui excelled at using so-called "axe-cut" texture strokes to render the tough and cut-away quality of the land and rocks. He first employed a dry brush to make outlines in ink and then applied many washes to create the effect of water and ink fusing with each other. Along with plentiful distinctions in ink tones, the overall effect of the scenery is quite pure and remote. The style of this technique was passed down for generations and became a major source for the formation of the Zhe School in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

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    Pines and Stream by Large Rocks 
    Pines and Stream by Large Rocks 
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    Pines and Stream by Large Rocks 

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink on silk, 160.3 x 96.8 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure

         This hanging scroll depicts pines and rocks by a stream. The two pines, one in front and the other behind, rise from the rocky outcroppings and extend to the left. The structure of the trunks is rendered with washes thick and moist, the scaly branches extending to the skies. Among the rocks to the left in the foreground are gnarled and twisted roots of an old tree, the craggy branches suggesting the "crab-claw" approach of the Li Cheng and Guo Xi school from the tenth and eleventh centuries. In the middleground is a roaring stream with splashing waters among the rocks, the shoals rising in layers in the distance to meet the mists and clouds of the skies.
         Scholars have referred to this kind of painting on the theme of "pines and rocks" or "trees and rocks" as the "principles of pines and rocks," which belongs to the category of landscapes. This subject actually appeared as early as the eighth century and flourished with the theme of Li Cheng's wintry trees and Guo Xi's landscape school, making it even more popular.

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  • Buildings on a Mountainside
    Buildings on a Mountainside
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    Buildings on a Mountainside

    1. Xiao Zhao (12th c.), Song dynasty
    2. Hanging scroll, ink on silk, 179.3 x 112.7 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/10/04-11/14

         The left side of this hanging scroll consists of a precipitous cliff, the rocks sharp and angular. On the other side of the composition is a river flowing by the side of the mountain, offering a pure and remote view of the expanse. The composition, however, is different from the monumental landscape painting tradition of the Northern Song period. With tough rocks and distant misty mountains, it creates a refined scene of complementary solid and void.
         In the middle of the painting on a precipitous rock face are two characters with the signature for "Xiao Zhao."A native of Huoze (modern Yangcheng, Shanxi), Xiao Zhao lived during the twelfth century under the Northern Song and later traveled south, where he learned painting from the court artist Li Tang. During the Shaoxing reign (1131-1162) of Emperor Gaozong in the Southern Song era, Xiao served as a Painter-in-Attendance, the unusual rocks and pines that he painted being doing with strong brushwork and dark ink. His texturing was also powerful for a manner lush and dense. The use of "axe-cut" texture strokes in this painting already demonstrates the influence of Li Tang's style.

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    Green Bamboo and Feathered Guests
    Green Bamboo and Feathered Guests
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    Green Bamboo and Feathered Guests

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 185 x 109.9 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         By a slope on a winter's day crouch a pair of pheasants as four masked laughingthrushes appear in flight or among the branches of the bamboo that grow and extend overhead. The contrast between stillness and movement is balanced and adds considerable animation to the painting surface.
         This scenic painting employs the method of "outlines filled with colors," the variation in applying and pausing the brushwork great. Slight trembling to the lines also appears for the outlines of the slope and bamboo leaves, representing traces of the "golden inlaid dagger" brush manner of the Southern Tang ruler Li Houzhu. The brushwork on the chest of the male pheasant is slightly weak, probably the result of inferior work by the artist or a later restorer for a damaged patch of silk. Nonetheless, this painting expertly captures a scene from the life of birds in nature, the presentation natural and moving. The painting bears neither seal nor signature of the artist, but its period of production is probably around the transition between the Northern and Southern Song in the first half of the twelfth century.

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  • Breaking the Balustrade
    Breaking the Balustrade
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    Breaking the Balustrade

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 173.9 x 101.8 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         The subject of this painting comes from an incident recorded in Continuation to the Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government. It tells a story of admonishment in the Western Han dynasty by Zhu Yun, Magistrate of Huaili District. Under the Han emperor Chengdi (reigned 33-7 BCE), Zhu could no longer bear Prime Minister Zhang Yu, whom he denounced as a knave and a flatterer, remonstrating him in front of an imperial audience. So infuriated was the emperor that he ordered the Imperial Censor to take Zhu into custody, but Zhu refused to cooperate, grabbing a balustrade and resisting until it broke. Fortunately, Xin Qingji was moved by the scene and came to Zhu's aid, begging that he be spared. Afterwards, the emperor kept the broken balustrade as a reminder to himself to be vigilant of transgressions.
         The rendering of scenery in this imperial garden is impeccable with only slight discrepancies in the background and historical facts. Although the painter did not leave behind his name, this work must have been produced by a master of the Southern Song period (1127-1279). This kind of narrative painting on the virtues of figures in the past was used for didactic purposes, in this case serving to illustrate how a ruler had the courage to accept honest advice from his officials.

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    Three Officials on an Inspection Tour
    Three Officials on an Inspection Tour
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    Three Officials on an Inspection Tour

    1. Ma Lin (fl. 1195-1264), Song dynasty
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 174.2 x 122.9 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in November 2011 as a National Treasure

         In the Daoist belief system, officials in the spiritual realm are in charge of the Heavens, Earth, and Waters, being responsible for dispensing fortune, pardoning sins, and protecting from disasters. Holding lofty positions, only the Jade Emperor ranks higher. This hanging scroll depicts the three officials on an inspection tour divided into the upper, middle, and lower parts of the composition. They ride on clouds and waters with attendants holding pennants in a very tight arrangement. The followers include not only immortals but also demonic beings of various forms and with interesting expressions. Legend has it that the gods protect living beings and will go out and observe the human realm to distinguish between good and evil, determining who is to befall good or bad fortune, their appearance quite dignified.
         The old attribution of this scroll is to Ma Lin, who followed in the family tradition of painting and served the court in the Jiatai reign of Emperor Ningzong (1201-1204), receiving the rank of Usher in the Painting Academy and becoming a favorite of Ningzong and Empress Yang. The style of this work, however, is unlike other paintings of his, the date of production slightly later.

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  • Seated Portrait of Song Ningzong's Empress
    Seated Portrait of Song Ningzong's Empress
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    Seated Portrait of Song Ningzong's Empress

    1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 160.3 x 112.8 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure
    4. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         This painting depicts Ningzong's empress sitting on a chair with hands clasped before her. She wears a dragon-phoenix crown with floral pins and a large blue long-sleeved robe decorated with a pattern of emerald (long-tail) pheasants, the lining consisting of a single piece of white gauze. The collar, sleeves, and hems are all decorated with red edging. According to the section on imperial regalia in History of the Song Dynasty, this is probably the type of formal ceremonial clothing worn by a consort who has been promoted to the rank of empress.
         Also, History of the Song Dynasty indicates that the Southern Song emperor Ningzong (reigned 1195-1224) had two ladies promoted to the rank of empress, Empress Gongshu (nee Han, 1165-1200) and Empress Gongsheng Renlie (nee Yang, 1162-1232). The former was a sixth-generation descendant of the famous early Song prime minister Han Qi (1008-1075) and grandniece of the powerful minister Han Tuozhou (1152-1207). The latter was an erudite lady and, according to Catalogue of the Southern Song Painting Academy, a connoisseur of art who inscribed many artworks during Ningzong's reign.

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    Squirrel on a Peach Branch
    Squirrel on a Peach Branch
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    Squirrel on a Peach Branch

    1. Qian Xuan (ca. 1235-1307), Song dynasty
    2. Handscroll, ink and colors on paper, 26.3x44.3cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in March 2012 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/11/15-12/25

         Qian Xuan (style name Shunju), a native of Wuxing in Zhejiang, was gifted at painting and calligraphy as well as poetry, being known as one of the "Eight Talents of Wuxing." After the fall of the Song dynasty, he went into reclusion and refused service under the following Yuan, selling his paintings for a living; his lofty character and art were praised by many at the time.
         Qian often depicted tree branches and broken twigs with blossoms, this particular work in colors showing a squirrel on a peach tree branch focusing on a large and luscious fruit. The compositional arrangement is succinct, the hues pure and beautifully refined. Rendered in strong yet fine brush and ink, the fluffy fur of the squirrel's body is done using delicate lines. The dark ink for the claws and eyes further capture the spirit and animation of this animal, a symbol of having many sons and grandsons. Combined with the peach, a metaphor for longevity, it goes without saying that the painting here conveys auspicious messages to the intended audience.

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  • Lady Wenji's Return to China
    Lady Wenji's Return to China
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    Lady Wenji's Return to China

    1. Chen Juzhong (fl. 1195-1224), Song dynasty
    2. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 147.4 x 107.7 cm
    3. Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in April 2011 as a National Treasure
    4. Restricted Display Work
    5. Display period restricted to 2018/10/04-11/14

         Cai Wenji (162-229), daughter of Cai Yong in the Eastern Han period, was a lady of many talents who was abducted by northern tribesmen on horseback during the chaos of the Xingping era, married to King Zuoxian of the Southern Xiongnu, and later rescued by Cao Cao after payment of a large ransom. Over the dynasties, the theme of "Lady Wenji's Return to China" became a subject in painting, this hanging scroll being a scene of "Bidding Farewell" from "Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute." It shows King Zuoxian and Wenji having wine and conversing before her departure. The fate suffered by Wenji must have struck a chord with Southern Song (1127-1279) audiences in terms of the last Northern Song emperors, Huizong and Qinzong, who were among those captured by Jin dynasty invaders and taken north. In the painting here, the clothing of the figures fits well with the features of those associated with the Song and Jin dynasties; it must have been a work on an ancient subject reflecting a more current event.
         This painting bears no seal or signature of the artist but had been attributed at some point to Chen Juzhong, a Painter-in-Attendance at the Painting Academy during the Jiatai reign (1201-1204) of Emperor Ningzong.

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