‘China’s Mona Lisa’ Is Almost 6 Yards Long

Bianjing city gate depicted in the Song Dynasty painting "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" from the 12th century.

The painting is called 'Qingming Shanghe Tu.' Qingming (清明) means 'clear-bright' and Shanghe Tu (上河圖) means 'going-along-the-river-picture.' (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most famous Chinese paintings, often referred to as “China’s Mona Lisa,” has a connection to the annual Qingming Festival that is celebrated in April in the Western calendar.

China’s Mona Lisa

The real name of “China’s Mona Lisa” is Qingming Shanghe Tu. Qingming (清明) means “clear-bright,” and Shanghe Tu (上河圖) means “going-along-the-river-picture.”

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A scene from China's Mona Lisa.
The bridge scene from the Song Dynasty painting ‘Along the River During the Qingming Festival’ from the 12th century. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

Its name has varying translations, such as “Spring Festival,” “Along the River During the Qingmíng Festival,” and “Peace Reigns Over the River.”

The painting is an enormous panorama, painted in a single color on silk by the 12th-century Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan.

Urban sprawl from the Song Dynasty painting 'Along the River During the Qingming Festival' from the 12th century.
Scene of urban sprawl right before the bridge leading to the main gate of the city, as seen on the far left. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

It stretches 5.74 yards (5.25 meters) in length and is 10 inches (25.5 centimeters) high.

Over 800 years old, the painting was returned to Beijing after World War II and has rarely been displayed since, being kept safe in the Palace Museum in Beijing. “China’s Mona Lisa” rivals the real Mona Lisa in the hearts of the Chinese.

Qingming Shanghe Tu has been copied by many artists over the centuries — a common practice and legitimate art form — who revered the old masters and sometimes added scenes or details relevant to their own times.

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