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    ‘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 ...

    The story scene comes from a marvel play Legend of the Jade Hairpin, which is not to be confused with the scene in Romance of the Western Chamber. Read the following article to find out details of the story and how this figural scene is depicted.<...

    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 ...

    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)...

    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.

    This scene is from one of the most famous Chinese dramatic works, Romance of the Western Chamber 西厢记, which was written by the Yuan playwright Wang Shifu (王实甫 1260–1336). The play tells the story of a secret love affair between Zhang Gong (张珙, also called Scholar Zhang 张生) and Cui Yingying 崔莺莺, the daughter of f...

    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...

    Legend of the Jade Hairpin (Yu Zan Ji 玉簪记) is a Ming-dynasty ‘marvel play’ which was the major drama genre of the time. The play, consisting of thirty-three scenes, was written by Gao Lian (高濂 fl. 1573-1581) around 1580 and remained to be a popular classic for the following three hundred years. It is a Shakespea...

    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 ...

    This is a scene from a popular traditional play ‘A Set of Interlocking Stratagems (连环计)’.

    The war lord Dong Zhuo (董卓, ? – 192 CE) became a senior minister in the Han court. His tendency to dominate the young sovereign, Emperor Xian of Han (汉献帝, 181–234 CE), gave other ministers cause for concern. They asked Wang Y...

    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...

    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...

    Evidently, Zhao Kuangyin (赵匡胤 927–976), Emperor Taizu of the Song dynasty (宋太祖), often paid unofficial surprise visits to his courtiers. As a result, his ministers did not dare to change their official attire into casual wear even when they returned home from court. They had to be ready for imperial visits any time and d...

    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’...

    This is a story from the Romance of the Western Chamber, a famous Chinese play written by Wang Shifu (王实甫, 1260-1336) in Yuan dynasty (1271-1368):

    On his way to the capital to take civil-service exams, Scholar Zhang (张生) fell in love with the beautiful Cui Yingying (崔莺莺), who was stranded in a monastery. ...

    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...

    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 ...

    Zhang Chang (张敞, ?- 48 BCE) and his wife grew up in the same village. When they were both children, Zhang Chang once threw a pebble at his future wife and, unfortunately, the scratch left a scar on one of her eyebrows. Later, Zhang became a civil servant and learned that the girl he once hit with a pebble was unmarried b...

    In the Buddhist legend, at the beginning there was nothing but water in the world. Vajrapani ordered his disciples to scoop the ocean to see what was hidden there. The sun appeared in the first scoop and Vajrapani fixed the sun in the sky to light the day. In the second scoop, there appeared the moon and Vajrapani placed...