Yang Guifei’s Abduction

Artist: Watanabe Nangaku 渡辺南岳 (1767-1813)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 18th-19th century
Ink, color, and gold on silk
H x W (image): 162.8 x 98.6 cm (64 1/8 x 38 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono

To 1900
Ikeda Seisuke (1839-1900), Kyoto, to 1900 [1]

To 1906
S. Ikeda, Tokyo, to 1906 [2]

From 1906 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from S. Ikeda in 1906 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] See Original Kakemono List, S.I. 90, pg. 145, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. See also, Curatorial Remark 4, undated folder sheet note, in the object record, which states that this object was reproduced in "Catalogue of the Ikeda Collection of Kakemonos and Screens," Kyoto (1906), no. 9 in text, pl. no. 4 in separate album.

[2] See note 1. It is probable that S. Ikeda refers to Ikeda Sei’emon (or Seisuke II), the eldest son of the well-known Japanese dealer and collector Ikeda Seisuke (1839-1900). Ikeda Sei’emon maintained shops in Tokyo and Kyoto under the trade name S. Ikeda & Co. After the death of his father, Ikeda Sei’emon sold a number of objects from his father's collection (Ikeda Collection).

[3] See notes 1 and 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

S. Ikeda (C.L. Freer source)
Ikeda Seisuke 1839-1900
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


In this powerful image, a beautiful Chinese woman is supported by one of four rough men as she is transported on horseback. Her fear and reluctance are expressed in her pose and her gaze downward and backward as she thinks of what she leaves behind. When acquired by Charles Lang Freer, this painting was identified with the story of Wang Qiang, known in Japanese as Oshokun, a woman of great beauty who threw herself into the Amur River rather than marry the Khan of the Xiongnu. However, the image follows closely other paintings that depict Yang Guifei, the beloved concubine of the Tang-dynasty emperor Ming Huang (Xuanzong; reigned 712-50). When his enchantment with Yang Guifei caused him to neglect state business, rebel forces captured Yang Guifei and put her to death. According to one account, she was unable to sit astride a horse without assistance, and she had to be helped to ride as she was taken away.

The painter Watanabe Nangaku was a pupil of Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795), who had established the popular subject of individual Chinese beauties in Japanese painting. Nangaku's arresting image employs the combination of Japanese, Chinese, and Western techniques that Okyo was instrumental in studying and incorporating into Japanese painting. The three-dimensional quality of his figures against the ambiguous, misty background draws attention to the slender, elevated figure of the woman as she is taken against her will to an as yet unknown fate.

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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