Wednesday, June 16, 2021

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

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

The painting is called Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú. Qīngmíng (清明) means “clear-bright,” and Shànghé Tú (上河圖) means “going-along-the-river-picture.”

The bridge scene from the Song Dynasty painting, "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" from the 12th century.
The bridge scene from the Song Dynasty painting, “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” from the 12th century. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Its name has varying translations from “Spring Festival,” “Along the River During the Qīngmíng 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: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

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.

Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú 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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Armin Auctor
Armin Auctor is an author who has been writing for more than a decade, with his main focus on Lifestyle, personal development, and ethical subjects like the persecution of minorities in China and human rights.
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