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Face to face with the past
观众在参观清代画家孟之瑞的《西园雅集图》。_106613.jpg 明代摹《韩熙载夜宴图》。_106615.jpg 清代画作《听琴图》_106616.jpg 明代画家李宗谟的《兰亭雅集图》局部_106614.jpg 观众在参观《康熙书房坐像》等画像文物。_106612.jpg
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  • A visitor takes a closer look at portrait paintings from the Ming and Qing dynasties
  • A Ming Dynasty copy of Night Revels of Han Xizai— a painted handscroll attributed to the artist Gu Hongzhong who lived and worked during the Southern Tang Dynasty (937-975)
  • A Qing portrait depicts two ladies, one playing the guqin, a plucked seven-string traditional Chinese instrument, and the other one listening attentively
  • This section of a painting from the Ming Dynasty describes a grand gathering of noted scholars and literati during the Jin Dynasty (265–420)
  • A visitor admires a portrait of Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) sitting in his study. Kangxi was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty and the longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history
  • 观众在参观清代画家孟之瑞的《西园雅集图》。_106613.jpg
  • 明代摹《韩熙载夜宴图》。_106615.jpg
  • 清代画作《听琴图》_106616.jpg
  • 明代画家李宗谟的《兰亭雅集图》局部_106614.jpg
  • 观众在参观《康熙书房坐像》等画像文物。_106612.jpg

The National Museum in Beijing is currently hosting an exhibition of more than 50 Chinese portrait paintings from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The paintings depict various figures, including members of the imperial family, notable officials and revered literati.

The retrospective offers the public a glimpse into the daily lives, fashions, spiritual pursuits and beliefs of people from different social classes during the two dynasties and brings visitors closer to the politics and etiquettes of the times.

The figure painting in the two dynasties absorbed foreign techniques and innovated traditional ones. The aim of traditional Chinese painters was to capture not only the outer appearance of a subject, but its inner essence as well—its energy, life force and spirit.

To this day, classic Chinese portraits convey the distinct social, cultural and political landscape of times long gone, making them a primary source for the study of ancient China. 

(Text and photos by Wei Yao)

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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