This book explores a fine example of early Chinese painting called The Admonitions Scroll, which is widely regarded as a masterpiece and is arguably the earliest surviving Chinese painting.
Painted in ink and colour on silk and traditionally attributed to the ‘founding figure’ of Chinese painting, Gu Kaizhi (c.345–c.406), the scroll entered the British Museum in 1903 and has become one of its most famous objects.
The scroll illustrates a poem written in AD 292 by the poet-official Zhang Hua (232–300). The painted scenes reveal deep psychological insights into some of the figures as well as offer touching glimpses of court life, including in the bedchamber.
The story of the scroll is of fascinating historical interest and this accessible and beautifully illustrated book is an ideal companion guide.
About the Author
Jan Stuart was Keeper of the Department of Asia at the British Museum. Her area of academic speciality is Chinese art and material culture, with special emphasis on the Ming and Qing dynasties (fourteenth to early twentieth century). Research interests include paintings, decorative arts, garden design and Buddhist sculpture. Before joining the Museum in 2006, she was a curator of Chinese art at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, which together constitute the national museum of Asian art in the United States.
More about the Scroll
The scroll illustrates a poem written in AD 292 by the poet-official Zhang Hua (232–300), who was reprimanding Empress Jia (257–300) who had wantonly abandoned the Confucian-based ethical behaviour expected of court ladies, including personal sacrifice to save the emperor should he be in danger.
The Admonitions Scroll was painted centuries later in order to admonish a different wayward ruler – this time an emperor himself. While didactic and morally instructive, the painted scenes also reveal deep psychological insights into some of the figures as well as offer touching glimpses of court life, including in the bedchamber.
Modern scholarship holds that the Admonitions Scroll dates from the sixth to eighth century AD. While it may or may not be a copy of an original work by Gu, without doubt it accurately represents a style current in his lifetime and as such represents the seminal development of the features that came to distinguish Chinese ink painting as a distinctive world tradition.
The Admonitions Scroll has been held in many prestigious Chinese private and imperial collections, as well as having been copied by other Chinese artists, before arriving in London over a century ago.