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Chinese Painting - Qingming on the River

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Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world.
Painting in the traditional style is known today in Chinese as guóhuà (国画), meaning 'national' or 'native painting', as opposed to Western styles of art which became popular in China in the 20th century. Traditional painting involves essentially the same techniques as calligraphy and is done with a brush dipped in black or colored ink; oils are not used. As with calligraphy, the most popular materials on which paintings are made of are paper and silk. The finished work can be mounted on scrolls, such as hanging scrolls or handscrolls. Traditional painting can also be done on album sheets, walls,lacquerware, folding screens, and other media.
The two main techniques in Chinese painting are: * Gong-bi (工筆), meaning "meticulous", uses highly detailed brushstrokes that delimits details very precisely. It is often highly coloured and usually depicts figural or narrative subjects. It is often practised by artists working for the royal court or in independent workshops. * Ink and wash painting, in Chinese Shui-mo or (水墨[1]) also loosely termed watercolour or brush painting, and also known as "literati painting", as it was one of the "Four Arts" of the Chinese Scholar-official class.[2] In theory this was an art practised by gentlemen, a distinction that begins to be made in writings on art from the Song dynasty, though in fact the careers of leading exponents could benefit considerably.[3] This style is also referred to as "xie yi" (寫意) or freehand style.
Landscape painting was regarded as the highest form of Chinese painting, and generally still is.[4] The time from the Five Dynasties period to the Northern Song period (907–1127) is known as the "Great age of Chinese landscape". In the north, artists such as Jing Hao, Li Cheng, Fan Kuan, andGuo Xi painted pictures of towering mountains, using strong black lines, ink wash, and sharp, dotted brushstrokes to suggest rough stone. In the south,Dong Yuan, Juran, and other artists painted the rolling hills and rivers of their native countryside in peaceful scenes done with softer, rubbed brushwork. These two kinds of scenes and techniques became the classical styles of Chinese landscape painting.
Along the River During the Qingming Festival (simplified Chinese: 清明上河图; traditional Chinese: 清明上河圖; pinyin: Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú) is a painting attributed to Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145). It captures the daily life of people and the landscape of the capital, Bianjing, today's Kaifeng, from the Northern Song period. The theme is often said to celebrate the festive spirit and worldly commotion at the Qingming Festival, rather than the holiday's ceremonial aspects, such as tomb sweeping and prayers. Successive scenes reveal the lifestyle of all levels of the society from rich to poor as well as different economic activities in rural areas and the city, and offer glimpses of period clothing and architecture.[1] The painting is considered to be the most renowned work among allChinese paintings,[2][3][4] and it has been called "China's Mona Lisa."[5]
As an artistic creation, the piece has been revered and court artists of subsequent dynasties made re-interpretive versions, each following the overall composition and the theme of the original but differing in details and technique.[6] Over the centuries, the Qingming scroll was collected and kept among numerous private owners, before it eventually returned to public ownership. The painting was a particular favorite of emperor Puyi, who took the Song Dynasty original with him when he left Beijing. It was re-purchased in 1945 and kept at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City. The Song Dynasty original and the Qing version, in the Beijing and Taipei Palace Museums respectively, are regarded as national treasures and are exhibited only for brief periods every few years.[7]
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The Song original
The scroll is 25.5 centimetres (10.0 inches) in height and 5.25 meters (5.74 yards)[8] long. In its length there are 814 humans, 28 boats, 60 animals, 30 buildings, 20 vehicles, nine sedan chairs, and 170 trees.[1] The countryside and the densely populated city are the two main sections in the picture, with the river meandering through the entire length.
The right section is the rural area of the city. There are crop fields and unhurried rural folk—predominately farmers, goatherds, and pig herders—in bucolic scenery. A country path broadens into a road and joins with the city road.
The left half is the urban area, which eventually leads into the city proper with the gates. Many economic activities, such as people loading cargoes onto the boat, shops, and even a tax office, can be seen in this area. People from all walks of life are depicted: peddlers, jugglers, actors, paupers begging, monks asking for alms, fortune tellers and seers, doctors, innkeepers, teachers, millers, metalworkers, carpenters, masons, and official scholars from all ranks.
Outside the city proper (separated by the gate to the left), there are businesses of all kinds, selling wine, grain, secondhand goods, cookware, bows and arrows, lanterns, musical instruments, gold and silver, ornaments, dyed fabrics, paintings, medicine, needles, and artifacts, as well as many restaurants. The vendors (and in the Qing revision, the shops themselves) extend all along the great bridge, called the Rainbow Bridge (虹橋 Hong Qiao) or, more rarely, the Shangtu Bridge (上土橋).
Where the great bridge crosses the river is the center and main focus of the scroll. A great commotion animates the people on the bridge. A boat approaches at an awkward angle with its mast not completely lowered, threatening to crash into the bridge. The crowds on the bridge and along the riverside are shouting and gesturing toward the boat. Someone near the apex of the bridge lowers a rope to the outstretched arms of the crew below.
In addition to the shops and diners, there are inns, temples, private residences, and official buildings varying in grandeur and style, from huts to mansions with grand front- and backyards.
People and commodities are transported by various modes: wheeled wagons, beasts of labor (in particular, a large number of donkeys and mules), sedan chairs, and chariots. The river is packed with fishing boats and passenger-carrying ferries, with men at the river bank, pulling the larger ships.
Many of these details are roughly corroborated by Song dynasty writings, principally the Dongjing Meng Hua Lu, which describes many of the same features of life in the capital.

Traditionally, three things have been accepted about the original painting: * The city depicted is Kaifeng * It was painted before the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty in 1127 * It depicts the Qingming Festival

"Along the River During the Qingming Festival¡± is the title of several Panoramic paintings, the original version generally attributed to the Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145). In the 5.28-meter long picture, there are 814 humans, 28 boats, 60 animals, 30 buildings, 20 vehicles, nine sedan chairs and 170 trees drawn. It captures the daily life of people from the Song period at the capital Bianjing, today's Kaifeng. The theme celebrates the festive spirit and worldly commotion on the Qingming Festival, rather than the holiday's ceremonial aspects such as tomb sweeping and prayers. The entire piece was painted in handscroll format, and the content reveals the lifestyle of all levels of the society from rich to poor as well as different economic activities in rural areas and the city. It offers glimpses of period clothing and architecture. As an artistic creation the piece has been revered and court artists of subsequent dynasties have made several reinterpretive replicas. The painting is famous because of its geometrically accurate images of boats, bridges, shops, and scenery. Because of its fame, it has been called "China's Mona Lisa".
Possible Translations of Qingming Shanghe Tu 清明上河圖: Literally, qingming 清明 means “clear-bright,” and shanghe tu 上河圖 means “going-along-the-river-picture.” The most common translation of the scroll’s name refers to the Qingming Festival when, in early spring, the living sweep the graves of their ancestors. Another interpretation, proposed by Professor Valerie Hansen at Yale University, is thatqingming can mean “peaceful and orderly,” making the scroll’s title “Peace Reigns Over the River.”
The Handscroll Format Even though modern museums often display handscrolls stretched out full-length under a glass case, they were originally intended to be held by the viewer, who would unroll only an arm’s length section at a time. Starting at the right end of the scroll, and progressing to the left, the viewer determined the pace. With the use of perspective, the artist can make something seem to come closer and then to recede. A handscroll can show the same object from different angles, creating moments of suspense to entice the viewer to keep on looking.
Qing Court Version Many versions of the painting "Up the River During Qingming" ("Along the River During the Qingming Festival") have survived over the ages. Alone in the National Palace Museum in Taipei are eight, the most famous of which is the “Qing Court Version (清院本)”. This handscroll was completed through the effort and cooperation of five Qing dynasty court artists - Chen Mei (陳枚), Sun Hu (孫祜), Jin Kun (金昆), Dai Hong (戴洪), and Cheng Zhidao (程志道). This version has been the subject of a documentary film, printed in postcard and jigsaw-puzzle form, published in a detailed study and as a children's book, produced as a multimedia disc, and even reproduced in full size. The handscroll can be roughly divided into five major sections. The first is comprised of serene rustic scenery, followed next by a section focusing on Rainbow Bridge, which also represents the climax with its crowded market scene. The third section describes the bustling activity near the city gate, and the fourth progresses from the Pine and Bamboo Hall to a large wooden bridge with scenery along both sides of the river. The last section portrays the beautiful site of Golden Brightness (Jin-ming) Lake. Architectural elements throughout the handscroll were all done using the principles of Western perspective, the buildings and streets distinctly rendered in appropriate proportion. The distance between near and far has been accurately grasped, and there is even Western-style architecture found in the painting. With the brushwork throughout the handscroll precise and the coloring dazzling, this work is truly a gem of ingenuity and realism in Chinese painting.…...

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