July 27, 2016

Complete Geographical Map of the Great Qing Dynasty

Da Qing wan nian yi tong di li yuan tu (Complete geographical map of the great Qing dynasty) is a map of China during the Qing dynasty. A typical map of the administrative divisions of China in this period, it is a revised edition, issued between 1796 and 1820, of the map originally drawn by Huang Qianren (1694‒1771) in the 32nd year (1767) of the Qianlong reign. The new material is shown in blue and green. Information has been added relating to all the newly established prefectures, sub-prefectures, departments, and districts from the end of the Kangxi reign in 1722 to the beginning of Jiaqing in 1796. The annotations on the map mention the usefulness of marking every 100 square li (a Chinese unit of distance; one li equals about 0.5 kilometer), but such a scale is not shown on the map. The mapmaker’s original intention was to create eight vertical scrolls that could be seen hanging on a wall, allowing the viewer to see a representation of the rivers and mountains of China. However, in order to make the map easier to fold and store, during the mounting of the scrolls the map was cut into 24 sheets, which then were combined into a single map.

King Chai Pushes a Cart

Presented here is a pair of New Year pictures, both of which depict King Chai pushing a cart. This excellent work was created at Hecheng Laodian (Old Shop of Hecheng) in Zhuxian Zhen, Henan, during the Qing dynasty. The prints were made by the woodblock color-printing process, with the engraving clearly cut by an expert, and the composition full of life. The colors are fresh and beautiful and the color process precise. The colors used are the ancient green and mallow purple often seen in the New Year pictures made in Zhuxian Zhen, Henan. King Chai was Chai Rong (921‒59), also known by his temple name Shizong, the second emperor of Later Zhou (951‒60) during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907‒960). The legend—that he had pushed a cart in the streets, selling umbrellas before his success in becoming a rich man—became a folk anecdote among the people. He was called “Wealth Star” and “Living Immortal” and was immortalized as “God of Wealth.” There is a popular saying among the people that “When King Chai pushes the cart fast, silver money rolls in the house.” The figures depicted in the two pictures are almost identical. King Chai is depicted wearing a hat, with a smile on his face. He is in short clothes intended for labor. The figure in the right picture wears red pants and a green shirt, pushing a cart with a banner with characters that read: “returning home fully loaded,” while the figure in the left picture wears green pants and a red shirt, pushing a cart with a banner that reads: “earning bushels of gold each day.” The carts are full of gold and silver. The two figures are pushing their carts straight towards each other, presenting an amusing scene. New Year pictures with the theme of Chai Rong pushing a cart were mainly seen in Henan. Those made in Zhuxian Zhen are especially exquisite pieces. One such picture, held at Kaifeng Museum, has the title “Returning home fully loaded,” and was selected in 2008 as one of the stamp designs in the series of “Woodblock New Year Pictures of Zhuxian Zhen.”

The Winemaking Deity

The New Year picture Zao jiu xian weng (The Winemaking Deity) in the collection of the National Library of China belongs to the category of images relating to worship of the Horse God. This picture, however, is for the sacrificial ceremony of worshipping the Wine God. The piece was created in Beijing and reflects the continuation of the folk tradition in Northern China of worshipping the Wine God. In this image, the Wine God is sitting upright in the middle of the picture, holding a ritual wine vessel called a jue. On both sides of him stand the fairy boys, each holding a different-shaped wine pot, with the name of the wine on the body of the pot. In the foreground is an altar table, on which stand an incense burner, a candle holder, and sacrificial objects at the sides. Behind the deity is a horizontal scroll, with a four-character inscription: Zao jiu xian weng (The Winemaking Deity). The space on the two sides of the scroll is decorated with banners. A number of famous wine varieties are engraved on the picture, such as Sanbai (three whites wine), Huiquan (Huiquan wine), Jujiu (chrysanthemum wine), Yaojiu (medicinal wine), and more. The figure is the deified patron of winemakers. There were a number of legendary patrons of winemakers in various areas of China, the most popular of which were Yidi and Du Kang.

Immortal Official of Market Profits

Li shi xian guan (Immortal Official of Market Profits), a popular deity among Chinese people, was the God of Wealth of the North, one of the four generals under Zhao Gongming, the Military God of Wealth. His name was Yao Shaosi. Li shi is an auspicious term and conveys the sense of luck and fortune, as well as profits from sales. The Immortal Official of Market Profits is in charge of luck. He symbolizes good luck and happiness; through him money will pour in from all sides. He is especially appreciated by merchants. In New Year pictures, he is always depicted either at the side of the main God of Wealth or appears alone. The figure in this picture wears an official’s black gauze cap and court clothing and holds a tablet in both of his hands. He is dressed as a court official and his expression is kind and benevolent. The servant on his left side holds in both hands a precious vase, and behind him is a horse, which implies that money is being gathered in the precious vase and money will pour in “as soon as the horse is mounted,” a Chinese saying that means “right away.” The servant on the god’s right, with his bare upper body, holds a treasure basin filled with copper coins and gold ingots on top of his head, symbolizing the Immortal Official of Market Profits who brings money and treasure. Worship of and sacrifices to gods of wealth reflect the common people’s aspirations for wealth and treasures and their yearning for, and pursuit of, riches and bliss in their lives.

Inscription of a Eulogy on the Burial of a Crane

Yi he ming (Inscription of a eulogy on the burial of a crane) is a very famous carved rock inscription of great significance in the history of Chinese calligraphy. It is a eulogy mourning the death of a family crane. The inscription is considered the progenitor of large-character calligraphy of the Southern Dynasties (420‒589). The original rock carving, situated on the west crag of Jiaoshan Mountain, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, was carved in the 13th year (514) of the Tianjian reign of Liang of the Southern Dynasties. Later it fell into the river and was not rediscovered until the Northern Song (960‒1127). The great scholar Ouyang Xiu (1007‒72) recorded this work in his Ji gu lu (Collected inscriptions of the past); thus it became well known and was reproduced numerous times in rubbings. In the 52nd year (1713) of Qing emperor Kangxi, Chen Pengnian (1663‒1723) of Changsha, prefect of Zhenjiang, enlisted laborers and pulled five pieces of stone out of the river. They were then moved and some were built into the walls of the Dinghui Temple on Jiaoshan Mountain. The year 1713 thus became the demarcation point of dating the rubbings, the earlier ones before the rock fell into the river and the later ones after its recovery. The earlier group is extremely rare because it was difficult to make rubbings of the inscription. The remaining stone pieces are now placed in Baomoxuan (Baomo Pavilion), also called Jiaoshan bei lin (Stele Forest of Jiaoshan), where Yi he ming is the most famous stone inscription. This rubbing dates from the late Ming dynasty. It is considered a rubbing of the earlier group. The two characters sui and wu are in perfect shape, and the last stroke of the character xiang reaches into the stone flower. The inscription on the rubbing reads: “Text written by Huayang Zhenyi, calligraphy by Shanghuang Shanjiao.” Scholars of later centuries have disputed the identities of the author and the calligrapher.

Portraits of 500 Arhats

Wu bai Luohan tu (Portraits of 500 arhats), written and inscribed by Emperor Gaozong (1711‒99), reign title Qianlong (reigned 1736‒96), was originally a painting by Wang Fangyue. Wang Fangyue, born in Wuxi, Jiangsu, was a court painter during Emperor Qianlong’s reign, and excelled in figure and landscape painting. An arhat is someone who has reached true enlightenment (nirvana). The entire painting is divided into ten sections, each section assigned in order with one of the names of the ten heavenly stems (days in a calendrical cycle). Each painting is followed by a text. At the front is a preface, which briefly describes how Emperor Qianlong supervised the entire process, from the beginning to the end, of the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats on Longevity Hill in Beijing. It also explains the characteristics of the 500 arhats, who positioned themselves in the woods, at streams, and in the pavilions, on terraces and towers, instead of being placed side by side in rows. Some of the arhats are in motion and others are still. Their expressions are all different, and they are lifelike. A stone carving was made in the 22nd year (1757) of the Qianlong reign. The stone tablet was originally placed in the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats on Longevity Hill in the Garden of Clear Ripples, located in present-day Haidian District, but it has long been lost. This copy is a first-generation rubbing, in intermittent dark and light shades of black ink. The rubbing is of high quality and between the Chinese characters there is clear spacing, thus highlighting the nuances. The rubbing is framed with yellow brocade and is elaborately mounted and wrapped. This rubbing is very rare and is a fine art treasure.