Edmund Backhouse (1873-1944), Peking, to 1913 
From 1913 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Edmund Backhouse through T.J. Larkin, London, in 1913 
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 
 See Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record. See also, Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 923, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.
 See note 1.
 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)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Edmund Backhouse (C.L. Freer source) 1873-1944
Outside his capital of Chang'an (modern Xi'an, Shaanxi Province), Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty (reigned 141-87 B.C.E.) set aside a large wilderness preserve for imperial hunts and excursions, and commissioned the poet Sima Xiangru (179-117 B.C.E.) to compose a long prose poem, or rhapsody (fu), to record its many pleasures. Sima's dazzling verbal description of the park's terrain and the extravagant hunts that took place in it, has long been celebrated as one of the most extraordinary displays of poetic creativity in the Chinese language. His fu served as the basis for this composition by the Ming dynasty painter Qiu Ying, who created The Imperial Park over a five-year period.
Executed in the meticulous blue-and-green style, Qiu's painting was immediately hailed by contemporaries as one of his greatest masterpieces. His initial version of the painting is apparently lost, but the composition survives in several copies, such as the work seen here, which may be an early second version. More than twelve-and-a-half meters of silk in length and painted with various costly pigments--including blue and green mineral colors created from crushed azurite and malachite--this lavish scroll was undoubtedly intended for a collector of expensive taste and considerable wealth. The section displayed here illustrates the following passage of Sima's poem:
Detached palaces, separate lodges,
Stretch over the mountains, straddle the valleys:
Tall corridors pour out in four directions,
With double decks and twisting passageways;
Fitted with ornate rafters and jade finials,
Carriage roads are laced and linked together.
In the covered walkways to walk completely around,
Long is the course and midway one must halt for the night.
On leveled peaks they built the halls,
With tiered terraces rising story upon story,
And cavernous rooms in the crags and crannies.
Downward through the deep darkness nothing can be seen;
Upward, one may clutch the rafters to touch the sky.
Shooting stars pass through the doors and wickets;
Arching rainbows stretch over the rails and porches.
Translation adapted from David R. Knechtges, trans., Wen Xuan, or Selections of Refined Literature, vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 89.
- Published References
- Lawrence Binyon. Chinese Paintings in English Collections. Paris and Brussels. pl. 59.
- Edmund Backhouse John Otway Percy Bland. Annals and Memoirs of the Court of Peking, From the 16th to the 20th Century., 2nd ed. London. op. p. 230.
- Collection Area(s)
- Chinese Art
- Web Resources
- Google Cultural Institute
- SI Usage Statement
Usage conditions apply
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)
Usage Conditions Apply
Chrome users: right click on icon, select "save link as..."
Internet Explorer users: right click on icon, select "save target as..."
Mozilla Firefox users: right click on icon, select "save link as..."