Zhang Zeduan – the painter of Qingming Shanghe Tu

zhang zeduan

Zhang Zeduan, 张择端, (1085-1145) was a renowned Chinese painter during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). He is best known for his masterpiece, the Qingming Shanghe Tu (Along the River During the Qingming Festival), which is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese art.

Zhang Zeduan was born in Huaxian (now Fengyang County), Anhui province, China. He was a talented painter from an early age and studied under the renowned painter Li Cheng. He later became a court painter in the Song Dynasty and was highly regarded for his skill in painting landscapes, figures, and animals.

The Qingming Shanghe Tu is a large panoramic painting on a silk scroll that measures 24.8 cm in height and 528.7 cm in length. It depicts the daily life of people during the Qingming Festival (also known as the Tomb Sweeping Day) in the ancient capital of Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng) during the Northern Song Dynasty. The painting is divided into two sections, with the upper section depicting the cityscape and the lower section showing the countryside.

The upper section of the painting shows the bustling city with its crowded streets, shops, and residences. There are merchants selling their wares, boats transporting goods along the river, and people of all social classes going about their daily lives. The level of detail in this section is extraordinary, with each figure and object meticulously rendered. The painting captures the spirit of the Song Dynasty and provides a window into the daily life of people during that time.

The lower section of the painting depicts the rural landscape along the river, with farmers tending their fields, fishermen catching fish, and various animals grazing or resting. The natural scenery is also beautifully rendered, with mountains, trees, and water all appearing lifelike and vivid.

The Qingming Shanghe Tu is not only a masterpiece of painting but also an invaluable historical and cultural document. It provides a wealth of information about the customs, dress, architecture, and transportation of the Song Dynasty, as well as the social structure and economic activities of that time. The painting also reflects the profound cultural and artistic achievements of the Song Dynasty and the high level of sophistication and refinement of Chinese art.

Despite its value and importance, the Qingming Shanghe Tu was lost for many years and was only rediscovered in the 18th century. It is now housed in the Palace Museum in Beijing and is considered a national treasure of China. The painting has inspired countless artists over the centuries and has been the subject of many studies and interpretations.

In summary, Zhang Zeduan was a highly skilled painter who created one of the most celebrated masterpieces of Chinese art, the Qingming Shanghe Tu. His work not only showcases his artistic talents but also provides a fascinating insight into the daily life and culture of the Song Dynasty.

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