Scholar Zhang Embarking on His Journey to Sit for Civil-Service Examinations

张生赶考

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Young scholar Zhang Junrui (张君瑞, also called Zhang Sheng 张生) is the male protagonist in the famous ancient Chinese play, Romance of the Western Chamber (西厢记 Xixiang ji, alternative translation is The Story of the Western Wing). He was commonly referred to as Scholar Zhang. The son of a cabinet minister of the court, he suffered the tragedy of losing both parents. This left him with only his sword and his books for solace and entertainment. Thus, he decided to sit for civil-service examinations. In Episode 2 of the play, he set off on horseback to the capital with his pageboy. The scene (in fig. 9 & 11) depicts the moment when they approached the district of Pudong on the west bank of the Yellow River, in the territory of the Hezhong Prefecture (张生至蒲东).

image identification and literature research: by Dr Yibin Ni 

Other episodes in the Romance of the Western Chamber:

Consummation of love from Western Chamber 月下佳期

Yingying Listening to the Qin Zither Playing 莺莺听琴

Yingying receiving good news delivered by the pageboy 泥金报捷

Acknowledgement:

Fig 1-2: rouleau vase with overglaze enamelled decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of The Guimet Museum, Paris

Fig 3-4: porcelain vase with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fig 5: porcelain vase with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Shanghai Museum, China

Fig 6-7: porcelain bowl of a set with overglaze enamelled decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands

Fig 8-9: porcelain dish of a set with overglaze enamelled decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands

Fig 10: covered round porcelain box with underglaze blue decoration, 1640–1700, courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Accession no. EA1978.851

Fig 11: porcelain plate with overglaze enamelled decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, formerly in the Marc Michot Collection

Fig 12: porcelain dish with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, formerly in the Robert McPherson collection

Fig 13-14: covered pewter octagonal bottle vase inlaid with copper, 1578, courtesy of Sotheby’s auction house, New York, 23 September 2020, Lot 622.

Fig 15: woodblock printed illustration of the play Romance of the Western Chamber, printed in 1498 in Beijing, from Ming kan xixiangji quan tu (Complete Set of Illustrations of Romance of the Western Chamber), Shanghai: Shanghai Fine Arts Publishing House, 1983, p. 21

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