National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Bequest of Geoffrey Ernest Sargant, 2000
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Gordon Darling Foundation
Read from right to left, the handscroll unfolds a scene of dragon boat race followed by a long inscription and seal by the artist.
According to the inscription, the artist painted in 1310 a scroll to commemorate the birthday of the then heir apparent and later the Emperor Renzong (r. 1312–1320) of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). The artist recalls the festivity of the dragon boat race that took place in the Jinming (Gold and Bright) Pond on the third day of the third month, the same day as the future Emperor Renzong’s birthday, in the Chongning period (1102–1106) of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). He therefore painted the subject of the Dragon Boat Regatta in the Jinming Pond as a birthday presentation to the future Emperor. At the time the Grand Elder Princess saw the painting and now twelve years later, the artist was instructed to make another version of the same painting in her honour.
The painting is executed in very fine details and brilliant colours. Dragon boats are racing towards the trophy surrounded by flags near the end of the painting. It is interesting to note that all the participants are women. One of the dragon boats consists of a building and acrobats performing in a swing. Standing at the heads of the dragon boats are women holding flags directing the rowing of boats. Three-dimensional forms are created not so much by outlines as by the subtle relationships of flat areas of colour. Wave patterns are drawn by sensitive brush strokes in ink, serving as a background to the colourful activities.
The artist’s inscription is followed by four colophons, one on silk and three on the paper surface of the handscroll.