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    The Chinese Valentine’s Day, Qixi Festival (七夕节), is just around the corner. It falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the traditional Chinese year. Dr Yibin Ni has conducted comprehensive research on this topic and has written an articl...

    ‘Imperial Consort Lady Yang Getting Drunk’ has been a popular Chinese story plot since the seventeenth century. However, many renowned museums are still not able to identify this story scene on the porcelains in their collection. Dr Yibin Ni will ...

    ‘Yang Xiang trying to throttle the tiger to rescue her father’ is a well-known story passed down from generation to generation in ancient China. However, Yang Xiang has sometimes been portrayed as a male figure on traditional Chinese artworks. Let...

    In Chinese culture, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is related to the legendary fairy Chang E, the Moon Goddess. We often see a hare, her loyal companion, and an osmanthus tree in the picture with her against a background of the Moon Palace. However,...

    Correctly identifying figures is crucial to deciphering an obscure story scene. Looking at this featured image, for example, some may think that the two figures in non-specific attires on a dragon and a phoenix are anonymous Daoist immortals. But ...

    On the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar Chinese year, young men and women will celebrate their traditional ‘Valentine’s Day’, Qixi Festival (七夕节). The custom can be traced back to an ancient story.

    Pictorial artworks with figural scenes in traditional China often have historical and cultural significance and are not to be mistaken for daily life genre painting. Here is an example and Dr Yibin Ni will explain to you the hidden meaning in the ...

    The Peony Pavilion is a famous play written by Tang Xianzu in Ming Dynasty. There are very few figural paintings depicting this play on Kangxi famille verte porcelain. Dr Yibin Ni first identified the figures and the scene on a porcelain dish in t...

    This is a republication of Dr Yibin Ni’s article written in Chinese “明末清初瓷器上张生的‘凝视’和莺莺的挑战”(Gaze from Scholar Zhang and the response from Lady Cui Yingying: a discussion of figural depiction on porcelains from Late Ming to Early Qing dynasty)...

    European descriptions of porcelain paintings that have story scenes tend to describe ‘figures and surroundings’, rather than identifying them. Thus, a large part of those beautiful stories intended by pot painters was lost in the description. Here...

    Have you wondered why the same story scenes were painted differently on Chinese artworks? How was it painted to present women falling in love on Chinese antique porcelains? Read on to see what Dr Yibin Ni has to say with his analysis.

    Mr Henk B. Nieuwenhuys from the Netherlands is the first foreigner who has kindly donated his art collection to China. Here are short video clips from a documentary made for this special event, in which Dr Yibin Ni was invited to introduce Nieuwen...

    Do you wonder why there is a goat drawing a carriage, rather than a horse, on traditional Chinese art pictures? Why are there so many people watching someone in a chariot? What is the story behind it? Here is what Dr Yibin Ni has to tell you.

    This is an overview by Dr Yibin Ni on how the topic of ‘The Birthday Party of the Queen Mother of the West’ was depicted on Chinese artworks, from woodblock print during Ming dynasty to scroll painting and porcelains in Qing dynasty.

    Dong Zhuo (董卓 d. 192), a tyrannic warlord rising to power at the end of the Han dynasty, caused great concern among courtiers and officials. Wang Yun (王允), the Minister Over the Masses (司徒 Situ), was entrusted to figure out a plan to bring him down. Dong Zhuo was particularly powerful because he managed to ally ...

    The play Polishing the Dust-covered Mirror (磨尘鉴 Mo Chen Jian) was compiled in 1619 by an obscure playwright Niu Ge (钮格), according to some twentieth-century researchers, including the eminent scholar of the field Zheng Zhenduo (郑振铎 1898–1958). The play portrays some colourful historical figures of the T...

    Early in Jin dynasty (晋 265–420), Yang Feng 杨丰 and his teenage daughter, Yang Xiang 杨香, were harvesting the millet crops in the fields when he was attacked by a tiger. Though only fourteen-years-o...

    This is Scene Five of Book Two of the Chinese classic popular drama Romance of the Western Chamber (西厢记 Xixiang ji).

    At a family dinner party, Zhang Junrui’s (张君瑞, also called Scholar Zhang 张生) dream of marrying Yingying (莺莺) the love of his life was shattered by Yingying’s mother because he was a nobody ...

    Duke Mu of the Qin State (秦穆公, died 621 BCE) was one of the so-called Five Hegemons (五霸 wuba) in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BCE) (春秋 chunqiu). He had a daughter named ‘Nongyu (弄玉, meaning Playing Jade)’, who was a talented musician excelling at playing the sheng (笙 mouthorgan...

    The seventh day of the seventh month of the traditional Chinese year is the Chinese ‘Valentine’s Day’, Qixi Festival (七夕节). The custom can be traced back to an ancient story about a weaver girl and a cowherd:

    Once upon a time, one of the daughters of the Lord of the Heaven lived on the east side of the Mi...

    Diao Mei He Geng 调梅和羹’ is a metaphor that likens the art of governing a country to the adequate seasoning of a stew with salt and sour prunes. The scene is often made up of a group of women or men surrounding a stove, on which a cauldron of food is being cooked, with an assistant holding a container with sour p...

    ‘True love conquers all’ is the theme of the Peony Pavilion (牡丹亭 Mudan Ting), a musical play of fifty-five scenes written by Tang Xianzu (汤显祖, 1550-1616) in Ming dynasty. Also known as Th...

    The Ming-dynasty play The Story of the Blue Robe (青袍记 Qingpao ji, also called《梁氏父子传胪记》) tells the story of how Lv Dongbin (吕洞宾 Lü Dongbin or 吕纯阳), one of the Continue Reading

    In traditional Chinese customs, the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunisolar calendar is regarded as one of the most dangerous days of the year when evil spirits and hazardous creatures lurked around. Notably, five noxious creatures were identified, known as ‘Continue Reading

    Li Yuan 李渊 (566-635 CE) excelled at horse-riding, archery, and calligraphy as a young man. He was to be the future founder (reigned 618-626 CE) of the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). Miss Dou was exceptionally smart and her father Dou Yi 窦毅, the governor of Dingzhou, was very particular about the quality of his future son-in-...

    The Eight Immortals (八仙 ba xian, in Chinese) are eight colourful Daoist personalities well-known in Chinese popular culture for over seven hundred years. 仙 (xian) in Chinese means ‘those who have achieved

    Romance of the Western Chamber (西厢记 Xixiang ji) is the most popular love comedy in late imperial China. In the story, Scholar Zhang (张生 Zhang Junrui) falls in love with a beautiful lady named Cui Yingying (崔莺莺), who happens to be stranded in a monastery with her widowed mother and, after plenty of twist...

    Wang Zhaojun (王昭君, c.52 – c.15 BCE) was one of the court ladies in the harem of Emperor Yuan of the Western Han dynasty (汉元帝, 206 BCE – 8 CE). It was not possible for the emperor to meet every one of the three-thousand concubines, so he had a court painter paint their pictures to facilitate his selection proc...

    In Zhuangzi (庄子), an ancient Chinese text from the late Warring States period (476–221 BCE)  and one of the two foundational texts of Daoism, the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu 西王母) was mentioned as a deity who ‘obtained the Dao (the Way)’. According to the Scripture of Great Peace (Tai...

    The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival falls on the night of full moon in the eighth lunar month. Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, is usually associated with this family-union occasion, together with the festival food – the moon cake (月饼). A legend recorded in an ancient Chinese book, The Huainanzi (淮南子 The Discourses of the Hu...

    The osmanthus tree prominent in the Moon Palace came to be a symbol for elite talents in the Jin dynasty 晋朝 (265-420). In around Tang dynasty (618-907), ‘plucking a sprig of osmanthus blossom’...

    With strategic plans to restore the war-torn country back to order, the talented scholar Li Jing (李靖) was paying a visit to the powerful Lord Yang Su (杨素), who enjoyed luxurious ways of living and female company around him. To Li Jing’s disappointment, Lord Yang did not take his plans seriously. However, Red Fly Whisk (红...

    Wei Jie (卫玠, 286-312) was admired as a handsome “jade man’ when he appeared in his signature goat-drawn carriage in town. Wei Jie shone like a piece of gleaming diamond whichever company he was in.

    On 17th century porcelain, the goat-drawn carriage and the Continue Reading

    The second half of the third century and the beginning of the fourth century saw a couple of most handsome men in the history of China. For example, Pan An 潘安 (247–300) was exceptionally cute and adorable when he was an adolescent. Women who spotted him in the street would circle around him and throw fruits into his char...

    A scholar official in Song dynasty Sima You (司马槱) dreamed of a beautiful girl presenting him the first half of a song, which he later developed into a full version called Huangjinlv (黄金缕). The girl was none other than a famous courtesan Su Xiaoxiao (苏小小) who lived by the Qiantang River and was in the local high ...