Along the River During the Qingming Festival

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The painting ‘Along the River During the Qingming Festival’ is now enjoying new popularity. It was first exhibited outside of the Chinese Mainland in Hong Kong in 2007. Then it became the centrepiece of the Chinese display in the Shanghai World Expo. It emerges as the top treasure of China. I think, the painting deserve this. There were two features that made this painting stood out. It was an early painting that portrayed the daily life of the city. It was also one of the first painting that used the moving perspective to link different scenes, into a continuous scroll. This version (3.0) included a brief survey of different versions of the painting and compared them with the Zhang Zeduan original. I believe the popularity why painting were copied centuries after centuries, were due the refreshing perspective and daily lives in a city. Indeed this painting created a new genre in Chinese painting.


Presentation Transcript

Qingming Shanghe Tu:

Qingming Shanghe Tu Zheng Zeduan Portrait of an early 12C Chinese City 清明上河圖 Along the River on Qingming Festival 張澤端 北宋開封 All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial, Educational and personal use. First created May 2007. Version 3.0 - 31 Aug 2016 . Jerry Tse. London .


History of Chinese painting It is generally accepted that Chinese painting began around East Jin 東晉 (317-420), in the 4C. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907) the foundation of all branches of Chinese painting were laid. In Song Dynasty 宋 naturalism in Chinese Painting reached its zenith. One of the oldest Chinese painting dates back to the Jin Dynasty 晉 (265-420). Like the painting, ‘Along the River During the Qingming Festival’ is also in a hand scroll format. The scroll is made up of several scenes but unlike the painting ‘Along the River During Qingming Festival’ the scenes are not continuous.


Along the River During Qingming Festival is the most celebrated Chinese painting today. It was painted in the early 12C, just before the end of Northern Song Dynasty. It is a very unique painting, because it painted the daily life in the city and the scenes are continuous. It gives us a valuable historic record as well as helping us to visualise the daily life of a Chinese city about 900 years ago. Along the River During the Qingming Festival


There are many versions of the painting by later artists. Some versions are straight copy of the original and others were complete different. One straight copied reproduction version by Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322) of Yuan Dynasty is widely available today. His version has some fine calligraphy on the top of the painting. Difference Versions


There are some 30 versions of the painting, apart from Zhang Zeduan’s original. I have included the more common versions here. Zhao Manfu’s version is a straight copy made in Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) about 100 years later. Several later copies of this copy is also known. The location of this original copy is not known. Zhao Mengfu’s 趙孟頫 Version (Yuan)


Qiu Ying (1494-1552) is one of the four master painter of the Ming Dynasty. Although the artist used the same title, in his version the scenes are totally different to that of the original. The idea of producing a painting with different connected scenes must appealed to him. Qiu Ying’s 仇英 Version (Ming)


This was painted by the Qing (1644-1912) court painters, on 1736 for the Qianlong Emperor. The painting is on display at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan. Many people have confused this with the origin painting by Zhang Zeduan in Song. Qianlong’s Version (Qing)


Qianlong’s Version (Detail) Very colourful version with the palace at the end of the scroll.


This is a curious version by Luo Dongping , who thinks that the original should be twice as long with scenes extended to the left of the scroll. The 1990’s version (PRC)


An animated digital version of the painting was created first for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The Animated version (PRC)


The animated version is 30 times larger than the original size, with moving characters and objects. It was titled as River of Wisdom. The version has a 4 minutes day to night cycle. The Animated version (PRC)


Historical Background (Sinking in a sea prosperity) Historians divide the Dynasty of Song (960-1279) into Northern Song (960-1127) and Southern Song (1128-1279). The capital of Northern Song was Kaifeng 開封 . After defeated by Jin in 1127, Song moved its capital to Hangzhou 杭州 . Song adopted a policy of shifting the power from the military to it scholar officials, with disastrous results. Its government was militarily weak but the economy enjoyed a period of prosperity not seen before. The desire of a strong government created many stories of heroines in Chinese opera. An example of this was the Female Generals of the Yang Family 楊門女將 . This was surprising at a time when female equality was suffering set backs from the more liberal attitudes in Tang Dynasty. A female fighting general in Chinese opera.


Historical Background (Sinking in a sea prosperity) As mention before, Song saw the development of Chinese paintings to new heights. In addition it created specialist academies to encourage the development of science. With the adoption of the factory system in the porcelain industry, China was on the verge of a scientific and industrial revolution , some 400 to 600 years before the West. New city plans were developed and led to the first appearance of night markets. The economy was booming and Song saw the beginning of a commercial revolution . Even with many newly invented weapons but militarily Song was sinking.


History of the painting An extraordinary painting about daily life of the ordinary people . It is very rare, as most paintings are either portrait, landscape and objects like flowers or animals. The painting tells us a lot about the what daily life was like nearly a thousand year ago. Surprisingly, little is known about the painter Zheng Zeduan. He was a court painter and originally from Shandong. The length of the scroll is just over 5m. It painting has some 700+ persons, 83 animals, 29 boats, 13 wagons etc. It depicts a street scene, which was about 7 km outside the walled city of Kaifeng. A map showing the location and the river bend depicted in the painting of the capital of Northern Song Dynasty, Kaifeng, in Henan province. Reproduced from 筆記《清明上河圖》 a book published by Joint Publishing 三聯書店 by 趙廣超


History of the painting The history of ancestral worship dates back to the beginning Chinese history. The Qingming festival 清明節 is one of the festival, when people visit their ancestral graves. It is normally held in early Spring around the same time of Easter. The painting was painted for the emperor of the day. It passed through the imperial collection of Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty. It was stolen 4 times and ended into private hands. It was in 1949 that the painting was bought back to Beijing from a museum in the North-East of China. It stays in Beijing and rarely on show to the public. Chinese joss paper folded into the shape of traditional Chinese gold nugget, used as offerings of riches to the dead. It is customary to burn these and others paper offerings during Qingming festival at the grave side.


Packed Donkeys Scene The painting begins with a line packed donkeys bring firewood or coal into the city. Most of the trees are bare. The rural houses have thatched roofs.


Countryside Travellers Scene Below is a group of travellers leaving the city with warm clothing. Above are travellers coming into the city, perhaps after visited their ancestral graves.


Mooring Cargo Boat Scene At the edge of the cities, there were several fast food eating places for travellers with the mooring boat. Near the bottom is one the grain ship laden with cargo. Some sacks were being unloaded and carried off on people’s backs.


The best way to describe the perspective of painting is from the view point of a bird flying along scenery, changing its positions as well as its heights. The scene on the left shows a high viewing point with the horizon ways above the top of the painting. The scene on the right shows the horizon is somewhere just above the tree tops. Changing view points


River Bank Services Scene A passenger boat in the middle of the picture and a man was seen cooking on the boat.


The Great River Rowing Boat Scene On the right is a boat being tow upstream by a team of men. More men are carrying sacks of grains on their backs. On the left is a group 8 men steering and rowing their boat upstream.

River Transport:

River Transport


The Rainbow Bridge Scene A boat lowered its mast to pass the bridge. Lots of spectators watching on a very busy bridge, with stall sellers on both side of the bridge.


Clearing the way Chinese wheelbarrow cart Tool seller Hot snacks stalls Sedan chair for ladies Rainbow Bridge Near side


The New Wine Shop Scene On the approach to the bridge is a great wine shop, advertising ‘new wine on sales’. A mobile stall parked just outside the shop. Next to the shop is takeaway or takeout counter. The wine shop offers food on the ground floor but with a more relaxed atmosphere on the upper rooms. Couple of ships are negotiating upstream.


The River Bend Scene More mooring places at the bend of the river. A wagon wheel repair shop was on the side street. A sedan chair parked outside of a tea house. A female servant is bringing a cup of tea for the lady inside the sedan chair. There was a two cattle driven wagon. On the left is a fortune telling shops.


One of the very few female (a servant) in the painting, reflecting the decline of female status within society and the ascendance of Confucius scholars and values. The Lady would eat their meal inside the sedan chair and not to be seen. The very cruel practise of feet binding was started in Song. A lady carriage . Probably a family member accompany the lady in the sedan chair. Carpenters of the wagon repair shop. Cake for sales Selling Ointment patches.


The Road Junction and Sedan Chairs Scene There was q sedan chairs station just outside a rich man house, with several layabouts sitting by the entrance. Seven pigs were on their way to the market, in front of a shop selling coal and firewood. A lot of people was standing on the bridge leading to the city gate tower.

Transport system:

Transport system


The City Gate Scene This was the city gate tower, as a camels caravan laden with goods passing through. Just behind the gate tower was the tax office, with traders paying taxes and tax inspector looking at the goods. A large and popular restaurant was on the left of the picture.


Interpretation of the painting The traditional interpretation describes the painting as a scene of the capital Kaifeng at the Qingming festival, in Spring. It depicts the arrival of the grain delivery boats to the capital from the south China. Annually some 300,000 tons of grain arrived to the capital this way. However, a new interpretation cast doubt on this traditional explanation. Eight points were cited to support the view that the painting depicts scenes in the Autumn and not spring. This included people using fans, “new wine” being advertised, water melon etc. Qingming in this case does not refer to the festival but to the enlightening policy of the government. I find this interpretation not very convincing, as none of trees in the painting have leaves. The city wall was built in 956. So it was about 60-70 years when it was painted.


Spring or Autumn? Trees with no leaves. Spring or Autumn? A very large scale restaurant. There were 72 such large restaurants in the capital. Water melons or cakes? A fan or a bag?


The Official Residence Scene At the end of the picture was a person asking for direction, outside an official residence. A large public well was providing water for the city and a tanker was coming out of the side road.


Wind gauge Well Pharmacy A wealthy official’s residence The painter asking for direction? Official with his escorts. Tax office at the city gate Camel caravan from the west A wealth residence with a lot of layabouts


The following painting was copied by Zhao Mengfu version, which is on an automatic scrolling if left alone. Alternative you can jump the various scenes by using the index button. Forward - [PgDn]. Jump back [PgUp]. Pause and Resume without music [S]. 清明上河圖


Countryside to the Outskirt (auto advance) Beginning in the countryside, with budding branches, as a team of donkey carrying coal into the city, passing a few cottages. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].


Outskirt to the River Bank Outskirt An official returning to the city, with the lady inside the sedan chair in the background. A well covered group leaving the city, passed some cottages. Behind were farming tending their fields, while the cows were idle. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].

River Bank:

River bank to the Mooring River Bank By the mooring, grain boats were being unloaded and being sold. There were pleasure boats and passenger boats here too. Passengers could come ashore to eat and on the right side of the street there were a few drinking bars. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].


Mooring to the Rainbow Bridge Mooring There were a collection of boat mooring here and served by more eating places. In the foreground was a large passenger boat being pulled upstream, with crews on alert and ready to act. It also had a toilet on board. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].

Rainbow Bridge:

The Bridge to the Rainbow Busy Area Rainbow Bridge A boat was approach the bridge. The crews were frantically preparing the boat, lowering the mast to pass under the bridge. Some crews were the bridge and on the shore catching the ropes. It was such a drama, that it attracted a crowd of onlookers. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].


The Rainbow Busy Area to the Shopping Area The busy junction on the approach to the Rainbow Bridge, here we had the first two stories house, which sell new wine. In front was a single wheel cart using as a mobile stall. Both sides of the bridge were lined stall selling snacks, tools, hot drinks. There were two wind gauges. On the bridge two sedan chairs were tried to avoid each others. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].

Shopping Area:

Shopping district to the Exclusive Residential Area. Shopping Area A busy shopping street with wagon repair shop, carpenter, tea house, a eating place and a crowd of onlookers attracted by goods on sale by a street seller. The travelling wagon on the foreground pulled by oxen. A female servant attending her lady in the sedan chair. Further on was a stall of the fortune teller, behind was a wealthy residence. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].

Residential Area:

The Residential Area to the Gate Tower Residential Area The first wealthy residence with lots of layabouts sitting at the entrance. A group of sedan chairs waited for hiring. Behind them a herd of pigs. Two oxen carriages were making their way out of the city. Groups of onlookers standing on the bridge watching the water flowing below. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].


Gate Tower to Official Residence A camel caravan passed through the Gate Tower. A tax office here collecting tax as merchants entered the city. Next to it is a shop selling bows and arrows. Next to that it the large three stories restaurant. In front of it was a family travelling by sedan chairs with the male company on horse back followed by servant carrying their luggage. Jump back [PgUp] & Resume Forward - [PgDn].


Official Residence The last house of the painting was the residence of a high official. Next to it was a pharmacy and wells providing water for the citizens. In front of the house was an official on a horse with his entourage of guards, clearing the way. A tanker carried wine (?) into the city passing a group of wealthy young men. On the top of the painting there were two carts pulled by four horses, passing a doctor clinic and a fabric shop.


Index Countryside Outskirt River Bank Mooring Rainbow Bridge Wine shop Area Shopping Area Residential Area Tower Gate Official Residence


Music – Ode to the Yellow River, the Second Movement of The Yellow River Concerto , composed by Yin Chengzong 殷承宗 , Chu Wanhua 儲望華 , Sheng Lihong 盛禮洪 , Liu Zhuang 劉庄 . Performed by Yin Chengzong (piano), accompanied by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Yellow River Concerto 黃河協奏曲 was based on the Yellow River Cantata 黄河大合唱 by Xian Xinghai 冼星海 , a work dating from the period of the Sino Japanese War. The cantata, itself was based on the poem written by Zhang Guangnian 張 光年 . Leading an anti-Japanese resistance theatre troupe across the Yellow River at Hukou (Kettle Mouth), Zhang Guangian’s poem was inspired by the sound and wind of the narrow gorge and the magnificent waterfall. The piece contains themes representing anger, grace and nostalgia , illustrating various stages of the Yellow River, a symbol Chinese civilisation, a source of fertility but at the same time a force of nature. Hukou waterfall on the Yellow River. Notes on Yellow River Concerto


All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. The End Music – Yellow River Piano Concerto arranged by a collaboration between musicians including Yin Chengzong and Chu Wanghau and based on the Yellow River Cantata by composer Xian Xinghai. A modern reconstruction of the Rainbow Bridge today in Kaifeng, Henan.


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