Imaginary Tour through Xiaoxiang


Imaginary Tour through Xiaoxiang

Paintings / Song Dynasty / China

By Li (dates unknown)

Place of production:China

Southern Song dynasty, 12th century

Ink on paper



Inscriptions:瀟湘臥遊伯時為雲谷老禅隠図 ; 気呑雲夢 ; 永存珍秘 ; 王斉賞鑒過物 ; 顧従義印 ; 陳氏子有 ; 王延庚印 ; 延之 ; 劉承禧印 ; 呉 ; 興 ; 曠庵 ; 静寄軒図書印 ; 来青閣 ; 四美具 ; 石渠宝笈 ; 乾隆御覧之宝 ; 乾隆鑑賞 ; 三希堂精鑑璽 ; 宜子孫 ; 菊地晋印 ; 惺堂

National Treasure

This landscape painting in handscroll format is regarded as a masterpiece among masterpieces. It was adored particularly by the Qianlong emperor, who ruled at the height of the Qing Dynasty. According to the text at the end of the scroll, this work was created during the Southern Song dynasty in the 12th century for the Zen monk Yungu Yuanzhou. This monk loved to travel, and he visited a variety of places, but was unable to visit the Xiaoxiang area in Hunan province, which is famous for its beautiful scenery. He regretted this greatly, and in his old age, when he returned to live a secluded life in his hometown, he commissioned the artist Li to paint this work depicting the scenery of Xiaoxiang. Thus, even within the confines of his home he could experience, as the title of this work suggests, an “imaginary trip” to the area.

Xiaoxiang is the area where two rivers known as Xiao and Xiang merge, flowing into Dongting lake. In this depiction of the area, people are shown leading peaceful lives among gently sloping mountains and abundant foliage enveloped in humid air. The artist carefully layered light tones of ink to skillfully capture the soft light reflected within the haze, and with incredibly thin brushstrokes he depicted the fishing boats, the reeds along the shore, and a flock of wild geese in the air. The result is a rich landscape that reveals something new every time it is examined.

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