Surimono and Poetry

The genre of Japanese woodblock prints known as surimono is characterised by the harmonious combination of poetry and image. Surimono were produced specifically for private use, not for sale in the market, to exchange as gifts on special occasions, particularly for the New Year, among the members of poetry clubs during the late eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries. During this period the poems mainly composed in the clubs were called kyōka (literally crazy verse), or humorous verse, which gained dramatic popularity among small numbers of the samurai class and townspeople, including wealthy merchants in Edo (modern Tokyo). From the 1780s, kyōka poets began commissioning artists to illustrate their poems. The artists commissioned to supply pictures for surimono mostly belonged to the ukiyo-e school. Leading surimono designers included Kitagawa Utamaro, Katsushika Hokusai and his pupils (Hokkei, Gakutei and Shinsai), Kubo Shunman and Utagawa Toyokuni. The surimono produced by the collaboration of kyōka poets and artists are grouped as kyōka surimono. The surimono on display in the exhibition ‘Plum Blossom & Green Willow’ are mainly kyōka surimono, with a few haiku surimono that include haiku rather than kyōka poems.

The combination of poetry and image seen in surimono is, in fact, part of a long Japanese tradition of unifying literature and art,  typically seen in painted hand-scrolls of classical stories, such as the tenth-century Tales of Ise and the twelfth-century Tale of Genji (including text with poems alongside the pictures). The Chinese style hanging scrolls of the eighteenth century, known as Nan-ga, also often include poetic inscriptions in calligraphy. Poetry has long been inextricably linked with art in Japan and has always played an important role in Japanese culture and aesthetics. There is a famous phrase by the court poet Ki no Tsurayuki in the preface to the Kokin wakashū (Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry), an early imperial anthology of c. 914 : ‘yamato uta wa hito no kokoro o tane to shite yorozu no koto no ha tozo narerikeri’ (‘Japanese poetry takes as its seed the human heart’). In other words, men and women speak of things they hear and see, giving words to the feelings in their hearts.

Poetry has also traditionally been seen as more than simply a form of personal expression. Reciting Japanese poems at religious ceremonies or at public banquets in ancient times enhanced the solemnity of the receptions, pleased the gods and Buddha, and also united the participants spiritually, having an effect akin to chanting mantra. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Japanese poems  were often sung in  ritualistic ceremonies, accompanied by the wa-gon (Japanese 5 or 6 stringed instrument), which was played as means to commune with the gods and also to enhance communication between individuals.

Waka, the Japanese classical poetry form consisting of 31 syllables (5/7/5/7/7) that stemmed from these ancient Japanese poems, developed into various waka poetry styles from the mid-eighth century. Waka poems were exchanged personally among high-ranking courtiers and recited on social occasions such as uta-kai (poetry gatherings) or uta-awase (poetry competitions). Kyōka poetry in surimono can be regarded as the descendant of this literary tradition, using exactly the same structure and poetic techniques as waka.  However, kyōka dispensed with many of waka’s formal constraints of style and theme, rather showing its witty, sometime sarcastic wordplay, thus being called ‘crazy’ or ‘humorous’ verse.

The ritualistic aspect of reciting poems can be likened with exchanging surimono among kyōka poets of poetry clubs at the New Year or on special occasions such as the celebration of an age milestone. The poems composed for New Year’s surimono often conveyed wishful thoughts of happiness and prayers to the gods, particularly prayers to Toshigami, a god worshipped at the beginning of the New Year, and to whom poems were dedicated with accompanying pictures. New Year’s surimono were known as saitan surimono (surimono for New Year’s Day) or shunkyō kyōka surimono (surimono for celebrating spring). The New Year was the most important event in the Japanese festival calendar, marking the rebirth of nature in springtime.

Most kyōka surimono were composed to commemorate New Year’s poetry gatherings. The subjects of the poems and images on surimono are varied, with the most conspicuous themes being still-life subjects, Kabuki actors, zodiac animals, legends and literature, among others. What was common to all New Year’s surimono was that they invariably carried auspicious imagery that conveyed messages of vigour, happiness, longevity, beauty and wealth. Both those sending and receiving surimono would be suffused with the pleasure of anticipation of positive things to come. The sense of anticipating auspicious things for the New Year took the form of ritualistic prayers and events known as yoshuku. These consisted of celebrating in advance the thing that was wished for and performing actions designed to imagine the actual realisation of that thing.

The poems and images on surimono often performed a similar function. Thus the tobacco pouch in the surimono ‘Pipe case and tobacco pouch with a netsuke and chain’ represents fullness and happiness because it is fully packed with tobacco.

Pipe case and tobacco pouch with hyogo-gusari chain and netsuke
Kikukawa Eishin (active c. 1804-30) 菊川英信
Artist’s signature: Hōrai Eishin ga 蓬莱英信画
Artist’s seal: Ei 英
c. 1820s
Colour woodblock print with metallic pigments and embossing
12.6 x 17.3 cm, kokonotsugiriban format
Presented by Mrs E.M. Allan and Mr and Mrs H.N. Spalding from the Herbert H. Jennings Collection, EAX.4615

This surimono represents a celebrative and happy New Year theme. The poem reads: ‘Laughing at the stitches of a spring pouch fully packed with tobacco – what a joyful time!’ ‘Spring pouch’ (haru-bukuro in Japanese) is the key word to link the kyōka poem with the picture, and to offer various interpretations of the surimono. ‘Harubukuro’ was a type of pouch made in the New Year by a young woman wishing for the pouch – generally a drawstring purse – to be filled with happiness in the year ahead. The playful poem by the kyōka poet Uramichi Chikaki (meaning ‘back street shortcut’) has turned the woman’s spring pouch into a man’s tobacco case fully packed with tobacco. The designer, Eishin, an ukiyo-e artist, has depicted a tobacco case with a braided metal chain (hyōgo-gusari) embellished with a boar’s tusk netsuke and fur pompom. The green pipe case that accompanies the tobacco pouch is sewn with irregular stitches that reference the poem. The word ‘haru’ is a pun, or ‘kakekotoba’ in Japanese, meaning both ‘spring’ and ‘being full’. The pipe case is empty and it is possible that Eishin’s design incorporates a risqué interpretation of a young woman’s ‘full pouch’.

Surimono sometimes alluded to classical themes of the past in a form of gentle parody known as mitate. In mitate, esteemed historical, religious or literary personalities were depicted as contemporary figures such as courtesans or actors. For example, in the surimono below, the Chinese immortal Rogō is portrayed as a courtesan.

The Immortal Rogō
Series title: The biographies of immortals parodied by courtesans: a set of seven (Keisei mitate ressenden: nanaban no uchi 傾城見立列仙伝 七番の内)
Probably commissioned by the Tsurunoya poetry group
Yashima Gakutei (c. 1786 – 1855) 屋島岳亭
Artist’s signature: Tōto Gakutei 東都 岳亭
Artist’s seal: Sadaoka 定岡
Colour woodblock print with metallic pigments,
20.8 x 18.5 cm, shikishiban format
Presented by Mrs E.M. Allan and Mr and Mrs H.N. Spalding from the Herbert H. Jennings Collection, EAX.4561

This surimono is one of seven prints in a series designed by Yashima Gakutei. The series likens famous courtesans to venerated immortals of the Chinese Daoist tradition, which is included in the category of legendary subject. The courtesan depicted here is the allusion to the immortal Rogō (Lu Ao in Chinese), who is often depicted riding on the back of a turtle. The designer of the surimono, Yashima Gakutei, has depicted a courtesan as if she were seated on the back of a long-tailed turtle embroidered on the bottom of her splendid kimono – the long-tailed turtle is an auspicious symbol of longevity. Gakutei seems to have been well acquainted with the subject and has extended the turtle imagery by depicting a tortoiseshell pattern on the courtesan’s obi (sash) and on the upper part of purple her purple kimono. This tortoiseshell pattern was typically found on the armour of the deity Bishamonten, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune and the Buddhist guardian of the north – one of the four directions represented by a turtle.

The turtle is also associated with an ancient East Asian practice of divination (uranai), in which the cracks that appeared on the surface of a heated turtle shell would foretell future events. In the poem, the phrase ‘kame no urakata uramasa ni ‘ [the fortune (urakata) predicted by the turtle (kame) happened as predicted (uramasa)] has a close association with the theme of Rogō riding on the back of a turtle. The background of the surimono is decorated with a pattern of cranes (tsuru), probably associated with the emblem of the Tsurunoya poetry group, who commissioned the surimono. The combination of crane and turtle is a most favoured motif as representing longevity (according to legend the crane lives up to a thousand years and turtle up to 10,000 years).

‘Still life’ was a popular subject for surimono, in contrast to commercial ukiyo-e woodblock prints which mostly depict the beauties of the pleasure quarters and popular Kabuki actors. The still-life depicted on the surimono ‘A vase with plum twigs and a crab on a court hat’ stirs your imagination of how these objects are related each other and what kind of narration could be unravelled. Only by reading the poems can the reader begin to understand the meaning of the picture.

A vase with plum twigs and a crab on a court hat
Rintei Yūshin (act. 1780s – 1820s) 林亭雄辰
Artist’s signature: Rintei
Probably 1825 (Year of the Rooster)
Colour woodblock print
16.5 x 20.4cm, kokonotsugiriban format
Purchased with the assistance of the Story Fund, EA2017.35

This surimono is a still life that shows a blue-and white vase containing twigs of plum blossom and a crab on an eboshi, a type of lacquered black hat worn by high-ranking nobles. These objects are laid on a chintz fabric with motif in red and green, all of which is presented in a diagonal bird’s-eye view, lacking a sense of three-dimensional perspective. The vase looks as if it is floating in the air. The theme of this surimono is puzzling –  the meaning of the picture only becomes clear once the poems have been fully appreciated. The key to unlocking the surimono lies in the place name ‘Akama’, found in the second and fifth verses. Akama is also known as Akamaga-ga-seki (modern Shimonoseki City of Yamaguchi Prefecture) and is the place where the Battle of Dan-no-ura took place in 1185, at which the Heike clan suffered a final defeat and was vanquished. Consequently the opposing Genji clan took the power of controlling the country. This battle marked a cultural and political turning point in Japanese history: Japan was to be ruled by Shoguns and warriors instead of Emperors and aristocrats.

At the site of the battle at Akama-ga-seki is found a type of crab whose shell bears a pattern resembling a fierce human face, like the crab depicted in the surimono. These crabs are called the Heike-gani (Heike crabs). It is locally believed that these crabs are reincarnations of the Heike warriors defeated at the Battle of Dan-no-ura as told in The Tale of the Heike. The black eboshi court hat on which the Heike-gani is placed represents the Heike family, who gained power by matrimonial links to the imperial court. The surimono was produced probably in the year of the Rooster, which can be surmised from the inscription around the base of the vase indicating of the date of production, the Bunsei era (1818-30).

The beautifully designed surimono below was produced for the poet who commissioned the surimono, to celebrate the special occasion of his early old age (shorō). It was commissioned with wishful thoughts of longevity.

Two sheets of haiku poems with chrysanthemums
Commissioned by the poet Tomioka Rochō
Artist unknown
Colour woodblock print with embossing
19.5 x 28cm, chūban format
Acquired 1979, EA1979.21

This surimono consists of two sheets of haiku poems decorated with red and white chrysanthemums that are depicted using an embossing technique. The haiku poetry form was born when the starting verse (hokku) of the linked poems known as renga became independent. Renga itself developed from 31-syllable waka (5/7/5/7/7) and was a collaborative poetry genre in which different poets contributed the upper stanza (5/7/5) and lower stanza (7/7) of waka in turn. Haiku ( the upper stanza) consist of 17 syllables in a 5/7/5 meter. Nature plays the most important role in haiku, and a seasonal word (kigo) must be included in each haiku.

The inscription at the beginning of the left sheet declares that the poet ‘ Tomioka Rochō celebrates his early old age’,  known as ‘shorō’, and indicates that the poems on the surimono were composed to celebrate Rochō’s ‘ga no iwai’, a custom commemorating one’s longevity at significant milestones, the first celebration of old age on his 41st birthday. This custom continues in modern times in Japan, but nowadays the first celebration of this kind is at the age of 60, with an event known as ‘kanreki’, returning to the year you were born in a sexagenary cycle.

The poems on the two poetry sheets depicted are composed by poets gathered from various prefectures, including modern Tokyo, Kyoto, Tokushima, Chiba and Aomori Prefectures, to contribute to Rochō’s milestone celebration, and also to wish for blessing of longevity. The poems are filled with autumnal imagery (kigo seasonal words), including references to autumn plants, geese, and numerous poetic terms for the moon in autumn, as the following examples illustrate.

Sōkyo of Mutsu Province:  ‘Worthy of the fame, the autumn full moon makes its presence known’

Isshi, also of Mutsu Province: ‘The clouds have cleared – the cool shade of roadside trees on a moonlit night’

The young man Sakyō: ‘On a moonlit night, the reflection of moonlight on pine needles’

Tomioka Rochō’s own poem, the last on the left-hand sheet, alludes to his own old age: ‘I scoop the reflection of chrysanthemums in the narrow stream’, conveying the sense of leaving his mark on nothing, echoing the transience of nature.


Kiyoko Hanaoka


Last Chance to see the Exhibition


on view until Sunday 17 Mar 2019

Gallery 29 | Admission Free

A catalogue of the exhibition is available at the Ashmolean Museum shop.


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Painting and Calligraphy by Wucius Wong on display at the Ashmolean Museum

Gallery 10 & 38 | Admission Free

The Ashmolean Museum is currently displaying in two galleries a selection of works by the Hong Kong artist Wucius Wong. This display based on the Museum’s collection is linked to the Lui Shou-kwan Centenary Exhibition: Abstraction, Ink and Enlightenment on view in the The Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery (Gallery 11) until the 7th of April 2019.

Born in Guangdong province on mainland China in 1936, Wucius Wong moved with his family to Hong Kong when he was not yet ten years of age. The influx of many aspects of Chinese culture that arrived in Hong Kong from the mainland, throughout the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries, created a unique multi-cultural atmosphere that permeated all aspects of life in what was then a British Crown Colony. Wong grew up in this cross-cultural atmosphere, one that he later saw as being a dialogue between East and West. His Hong Kong upbringing, and the three periods in which he lived in the USA later in life, all greatly affected his art work and resulted in the unique transcultural flavour that is evident in his painting. Despite spending sixteen years of his adult life in the USA, Wong identifies Hong Kong as being his home; the place where his roots truly lie.

Image 1: Wucius Wong , Valley of the Heart #7心壑之七, 1997, Sullivan Bequest, EA2015. 331  © the artist

With regard to the question of what the contribution of Hong Kong artists has been to the broader worldwide artistic endeavor, Wong has suggested that the answer lies in the cross-cultural nature of Hong Kong. He considers Hong Kong artists to be in a unique position to use this cross-cultural phenomenon in the formulation of new approaches to ink painting, and in the seeking out of new directions that cut across cultures, media and forms. Of course, it might well be suggested that this was something that had already been achieved with considerable success by Wong’s one-time teacher Lui Shou-kwan. In the case of the landscapes of Lui Shou-kwan they represent aspects of the Hong Kong landscape as he saw them on his sketching and painting trips around the islands from the 1950s to the 1970s. Wong, on the other hand deals with this in his own way.

For Wong it has been the modern city landscape, together with imagined landscapes, some of which show the starkest of scenes, that have been at different times the main themes in his work. Since the mid-2000s Wong has thought increasingly about Chinese traditions, following his lifelong engagement with East and West, to work “towards a new understanding of ink and brush.” At this time he was producing ink paintings of landscapes in series on such apparently Chinese-inspired themes as Great River, Deep in the Mountains, and Searching for Plum Trees.

Wong was heavily involved in the Hong Kong modern art scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s and in 1958, at the age of 24, was a co-founder of the Modern Literature and Art Association. This was the same year in which he began his studies with Lui Shou-kwan. As had been the case with his teacher, in order to perfect his skills, Wong copied the Chinese masters of the Song and Yuan dynasties, and a firm grounding in landscape painting is reflected clearly in his own creative work during subsequent years.

Wucius Wong first went to the USA in 1961, in order to pursue his painting studies. Following five initial years of training at the Columbus College of Art and Design, Ohio, and the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, when his work is seen to have been heavily influenced by abstract expressionism, he went on to produce works that incorporated elements of popular culture and mixed media. This can be seen, for example, in an album leaf dedicated by inscription to Michael Sullivan in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum. This album (EA2015.421) is one of two in the museum’s collection that demonstrate the state of modern art at the time when they were compiled. The other (EA2015.422), was compiled two years later, in 1970.

Image 2: Wucius Wong, Album leaf Collage with newspaper clippings, 1968, Sullivan Bequest, EA2015.421 © the artist

Wong produced this album leaf the year after he became curator of the City Hall Museum and Art Gallery. He remained in that post for a number of years, making his second trip to the USA during this period as recipient of a John D Rockefeller 3rd Fund Grant. This took him to New York for a year and it was at this time that he turned to Chinese brush and ink again. By his own estimation, during the year he spent in New York, his works were “subtle and muted”, while, following his return to Hong Kong, they became increasingly “colourful and vibrant”.

On his return to Hong Kong he resumed his post as curator but resigned in 1974 in order to take up a post in the Design Department of Hong Kong Polytechnic. The teaching of graphic design was something that has occupied him throughout his professional career.

In 1984 Wong went again to the USA and took up residence, first in Minnesota and then in New Jersey, remaining there until 1994. His decisive homecoming was as a result of Britain’s historic return of Hong Kong to China. Thinking back to this time, in 2006 he wrote, my “…main motivation for coming back was to bear witness to the historic day in 1997 when Hong Kong returned to China.”

His involvement since his youth in writing and literature can be seen to great effect in his later works, in the use of his own poetical inscriptions as well as those by major poets from China’s past. An impressive large-scale calligraphic work from 1999 entitled Expression in Calligraphy #25 (書興之廿五) is currently on display in the Early China Gallery at the Ashmolean Museum. This example, of a well-known poem by Su Dongpo 蘇東坡 (1037-1101), displays his own remarkably idiosyncratic calligraphic style to great affect – a style in which he appears to have deliberately avoided adopting the trappings of traditional calligraphic models from China’s past.

Image 4: Wucius Wong, Expression in Calligraphy #25 (書興之廿五), 1999, Reyes Gift, EA2002.142 © The artist

Despite this poem being very well-known, in Wong’s hands, a new dimension can be observed, the profound sentiments found within the text expressing thoughts and feelings that are frequently represented in visual form in his own landscapes:

“Viewed from the front, an entire mountain range; from the side, forming into a peak; from a distance, close up, high, and low – all [views] are different. I cannot recognise the true appearance of Lushan precisely because I am in the midst of the mountain itself.”

According to Pat Hui (b. 1943), collaborator with Wong on over 200 works – for a period of more than twenty years – it was in the 1980s that Wong began to concentrate more on the development of his calligraphic skills and made a return to the writing of poetry that had occupied him in his youth. The use of poems from the Song dynasty can also be seen in two other examples in the museum collection, one of which is currently on display in the Later China Gallery (EA2015.191), in which a Ci lyric by Xin Qiji 辛棄疾 (1140-1207) appears to move from left to right, floating above Pat Hui’s painted ground, lending a new dimension to this poem of nostalgia and regret.

Image 5: Wucius Wong and Pat Hui Painting and Calligraphy of a Song Dynasty Poem, 1987, Sullivan Bequest, EA2015.191 © The artist

These collaborative works – combining the calligraphy of Wong with the painting of Pat Hui – they named “poetic visions” (詩情畫意). As well as historical poems Wucius Wong uses his own poetry with which to construct the very fabric of his landscape, where a literary text or poem is subsumed into the main body of the painting. This is illustrated well in New Dream no. 4 新夢之四 (1997).

Image 6: Wucius Wong, New Dream no. 4 新夢之四, 1997, Reyes Gift, EA2002.141 © The artist

In the poem hidden within this painting Wong displays a nostalgic view for the Hong Kong in which he grew up, while at the same time expressing a profound understanding of the landscapes of both China’s past, and the American landscape of his personal experience:

“Can you cut your vision into strips and arrange them vertically and horizontally like all the tall buildings you once grew up with; and then desire to forget that which you have so often seen; and chase those mountains and waters that it has not been so easy to see? On awakening could you seek a new dream, and not care what mountains are, or what waters are, because you have your own dream?”

Dr Paul Bevan, Christensen Fellow in Chinese Painting, Ashmolean Museum



The Poetic Visions 詩情畫意 (Hong Kong: Alisan Fine Arts, 2005)

Wucius Wong, Pleasure in Ink 筆情墨一 (Hong Kong: hanart T Z Gallery, 2006)

Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Prints by Wucius Wong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1979)

Mountain Thoughts: Landscape Paintings by Wucius Wong (Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1987)

The Paintings of Wucius Wong (London: Goedhus Contemporary, 2000)

Wucius Wong, Visions of a Wanderer (Hong Kong: Plum Blossoms, 1997)

Wucius Wong City Dream 王無邪,城夢 (Hong Kong: hanart T Z Gallery, 2002)

Calligraphy and Beyond: Wang Jiqian, Wucius Wong 書意畫情:王己千,王無邪 (Hong |Kong: Plum Blossoms, 1999)

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Women and Martial Arts

The theme of the third and final blog post in the series complementing the exhibition “A Century of Women in Chinese Art”, on show at the Ashmolean Museum until the 14th of October 2018 is women and martial arts.

First we will look at a hanging scroll that appears in the exhibition by Chen Chongguang 陳崇光 (1839-1896). This shows three characters from Qiuranke zhuan虯髯客 (The Legend of Qiuranke), a work of popular fiction written by the Daoist priest Du Guangting 杜光庭 (850-933) in the latter part of the Tang dynasty.

Chen Chongguang ,The Hero’s Happy Encounter, 1989, EA1966.85 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

In this painting, entitled: Yingxiong qiyu tu英雄奇遇圖 (A Remarkable Meeting of Heroes) (1878) the eponymous hero Qiuranke 虯髯客 (Knight with the Dragon Beard) can be seen on the left. After meeting Hong Fu Nü 紅拂女 (Lady of Red Fly-Whisk) (right) and her husband Li Jing 李靖 (centre), together, as the “Three Heroes of the Wind and Dust”, they strove to overthrow the Sui dynasty in order to establish the Tang.

In the story, before the scene depicted in the painting takes place, Hong Fu Nü eloped with Li Jing, escaping from the court of the powerful general Yang Su楊素 (d. 606) where she had been working as a courtesan. Despite her demure appearance as seen in this painting, she is said to have excelled at martial arts and indeed The Legend of Qiuranke, in which she appears so prominently, is often referred to as the earliest Wuxia 武俠 (Martial Arts) novel.

Famously, a poem about Hong Fu Nü can be found in the Qing dynasty novel of manners Honglou meng 紅樓夢 (The Dream of the Red Chamber) in which one of the central characters, Lin Daiyu 林黛玉, is humorously compared to her. The poem takes Hong Fu Nü’s elopement with Li Jing as its theme:

Bowing with hands clasped, the hero’s manner inimitable,

The beauty, with great vision, saw the dead end that lay ahead.

In that moribund place Lord Yang would meet his end,

How could he hope to rein in a heroic woman such as she?

The story of the three heroes became the inspiration for a number of related literary works, and, as with so many traditional stories in China, has recently been made into a television drama series – an historical love story – “Hong Fu Nü of the Three Heroes of the Wind and Dust” (Fengchen sanxia zhi Hong Fu Nü 風塵三俠之紅拂女) (2004), starring the popular actress Shu Qi舒淇. In this, it is she and her fellow Tang court ladies who take centre stage, all of whom excel at performing the most unlikely of airborne, acrobatic, martial arts moves.

Dish with figures from the novel The Water Margin, 1680 – 1720, Mallett bequest 1947, EAX.3531    © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

It will be remembered from the previous instalment that amongst the 108 “brothers” in the Ming dynasty novel, the Water Margin a handful are women and as with all other heroes in the story they excel at martial arts. There a number of ceramic examples in the Ashmolean collection decorated with figures from the Water Margin, each showing three heroes carrying distinctive weapons in a variety of martial arts stances.

In this example can be seen, from right to left: Zhang Qing 張清 “The Featherless Arrow”; Yang Zhi 楊志 “The Blue-Faced Beast”; and Suo Chao 索超 “The Impatient Vanguard”, all three carrying weapons as if ready to engage in battle. Suo Chao wields the Guandao關刀 (a weapon named after the Chinese god of war, Guan Yu 關羽), Yang Zhi has a sword sheathed on his belt and in addition, grasps in his hand a variation of the weapon known as the Monk’s Spade, and Yang Qing appears to carry a pot and a ball, no doubt also to be used as weapons.

Porcelain painted in enamel colours, ca. 1700, Salting bequest, C.1196-1910  © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A similar example in the Victoria and Albert Museum again shows Yang Zhi, this time together with Xie Zhen 解珍and one of the three female heroes from the novel, Gu Dasao 顧大嫂 “The Tigress” (Mu da chong 母大蟲), as introduced in the last instalment of the blog. In the scene depicted on this plate Yang Zhi and Gu Dasao have been battling with Xie Zhen and have apparently succeeded in disarming him. Yang Zhi holds a trident-like spear and Gu Dasao the sword known in Chinese as the baojian 寶劍 (Precious Sword).

By the second half of twentieth century martial arts had become firmly established as a national sport in China, having been formalised in the decades immediately prior to this. In a 1974 Cultural Revolution propaganda poster in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, a young girl demonstrates her skill with the baojian in front of her classmates, with their master looking on in approval. The poster is a reproduction of a painting by the artist Ou Yang 鸥洋 (b. 1937) entitled Chuying zhanchi雏鹰展翅 (The Fledgling Eagle Spreads its Wings). The painting, showing members of the youth organisation, the Shaoxiandui 少先队 (Young Pioneers), promotes the future role these young people might go on to play in the defence of the Mother Country, as suggested by the martial theme and the large cannon seen in the background.

The Fledgling Eagle Spreads its Wings. Poster (1974), EA2006.208 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

More examples of girls practicing with a baojian can be seen in a set of souvenir matchboxes showing a variety of different postures. These postures, all standard forms learned in martial arts practice, are not named, the writing on the reverse of each matchbox simply listing basic instructions on how to use matches.

Four matchboxes with small girls practicing martial arts, EA2010.95

Four matchboxes with small girls practicing martial arts EA2010.95

For an excellent example of sword technique and the postures as practiced in one style of martial arts we can see the extraordinary skill of Chen Suijin in the 1st Taolu World Cup – first place in Women’s Taijijian (Taiji sword).

A stylised form of swordplay is also central to martial roles played in Peking Opera and one of the most famous of these is the sword dance performed by Yu Ji in Bawang bieji 霸王別姬 (Farewell my Concubine), the story of Xiang Yu 項羽, King of Chu, and his concubine Yu Ji 虞姬.  In recent times this was made famous by Chen Kaige’s film Farewell my Concubine (1993).  Earlier in the century, though, the double-sword dance towards the end of the opera was made a speciality of the great male performer of female roles Mei Lanfang. Following the sword dance Yu Ji snatches Xiang Yu’s sword with which she commits suicide.

Another martial role played by a woman is Mu Guiying 穆桂英 from the Peking Opera Yangjia jiang 楊家將 (Generals of The Yang Family), a staple of the Peking Opera repertoire, in which the female members of the family are prominent in their exhibition of martial prowess.

Song Guangxun 宋广训 (b. 1930, Baxian, Hebei) from The Generals of the Yang Family, Mu Guiying in a Beijing opera, 1978 (design), 2006 (print), EA2007.48 © The artist

An inkstick with impressed decoration, showing a baojian and a set of Chinese books, is dated the eighth year of the Xianfeng reign (1858) and is made in a traditional form that stretches back centuries. Such inksticks were ground with water on an inkstone to produce the pigment that was applied with a brush in both traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy practice. This example was made by the Hu Kaiwen, an ink factory established in 1765.

Ink stick with decoration showing a book and sword, Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory, EAX.5521 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The decorative motif found on this inkstick refers obliquely to one of the group of semi-mythological figures known as the Baxian 八仙 (Eight Immortals). This is in fact an example of one of the An Baxian 暗八仙 (Hidden Eight Immortals). In such imagery, the Eight Immortals do not appear in person but are substituted by the specific attributes with which they are associated, in the case of Lü Dongbin, as shown on the inkstick, these are the baojian and a set of books. A mythical figure associated with both scholarly pursuits and martial arts Lü Dongbin 呂洞賓 is said to have been the founder of the internal martial arts style known as Baxian jian 八仙劍 (Eight Immortals Sword). The silk hanging below is one of a pair in the current Ashmolean exhibition and depicts the Eight Immortals with their attributes.

For more on the Eight Immortals please see my previous blog for the exhibition “Pure Land: Images of Immortals in Chinese Art” shown at the Ashmolean in Gallery 11 in 2016.

Embroidered Hanging (detail: Lü Dongbin) EA1958.83 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Despite what is often suggested by martial arts practitioners, it is most unlikely that a style of sword practice such as this could have been passed down through the centuries, and this example, as with most martial arts styles, no doubt developed into what we see today during more recent times; perhaps more specifically in the nineteenth century or the Republican period at the time when martial arts made a resurgence as a national sport.


The exhibition “A Century of Women in Chinese Art”, at the Ashmolean Museum closes on 14 October 2018.

Posted on behalf of  Dr Paul Bevan, Christensen Fellow in Chinese Painting, Ashmolean Museum.


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Women in Peking Opera

In the second instalment of this blog, complementing the exhibition “A Century of Women in Chinese Art” now on show at the Ashmolean Museum until the 14th of October 2018, we will look at examples in the museum’s collection of objects on Peking Opera themes.

These include two paintings by Gao Made 高馬得 (1919-2007); one by Guan Liang 関良 (1900-1986); a popular print from the beginning of the twentieth century showing a selection of heroes of the Water Margin (a common theme in Peking Opera); and a small group of matchboxes from the 1970s.

Three figures from the ballet version of Red Detachment of Women, 1970s, Gittings Gift, EA2008.36.c © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

In the previous instalment of the blog mention was made of the Red Detachment of Women. The most famous version of this story is the ballet version, based on a 1961 film of the same name. Following this came the Peking Opera version, which, to the fan of Peking Opera is equally impressive, if not quite so exciting for the lay viewer.

Peking Opera version of the Red Detachment of Women

Before going any further I feel it is important to say a word or two about the term “Peking Opera”. The type of sung drama to which this term refers is known in Chinese as jingju 京劇 (or sometimes jingxi 京戲), a term that might be best translated into English as “Drama of the Capital”. The term “Peking Opera” is not a translation of the Chinese term jingju but was devised by English speakers in the nineteenth century to refer to this specific dramatic form.
Peking Opera was, then, an English-language term used to refer to the Chinese art form known in Chinese as jingju and in much the same way that “Peking University” is still the official name of that university (i.e. it has not changed its name to “Beijing University”), it should be seen as more correct to use the term “Peking Opera” when referring to jingju; the term “Beijing Opera” being something of an anomaly, with the word “opera” used simply to refer to a form of sung drama.

Gao Made, The Legend of the White Snake (Baishe zhuan 白蛇傳), 1990, Reyes Gift, EA1995.190 © the artist’s estate

Returning to the theme of Peking Opera as it appears in the Ashmolean exhibition. Gao Made’s interpretation of “Stunned by the Transformation” – a scene from The Legend of the White Snake (Baishe zhuan 白蛇傳) – is a good example of his work and is part of trend particularly prevalent after the foundation of the PRC to paint scenes from Peking Opera with a view to displaying one of China’s national treasures to the world. A similar promotion can be seen in the case of martial arts, the subject of the next instalment of this blog.

Gao Made is a largely self-taught painter and was heavily influenced by the cartoonist and guohua (“National Painting”) painter Ye Qianyu, an example of whose work can also be seen in the exhibition (EA1995.274). Gao is particularly well known for his paintings of scenes from Chinese drama following in the tradition of artists such as Guan Liang 关良 (1900-1986).

Guan Liang, Scene from the Peking Opera The Case of the Beheading of Chen Shimei (Zha Mei an 鍘美案), EA1968.74 © the artist’s estate

See for example a painting in the museum’s collection showing the Peking Opera The Case of the Beheading of Chen Shimei (Zha Mei an 鍘美案). This was a court case presided over by Judge Bao, a popular figure in Chinese fiction based on the Song dynasty magistrate Bao Zheng (AD 999-1062). In the painting, to the right, can be seen Chen Shimei who betrayed his wife Qin Xianglian by marrying the emperor’s daughter (the honour of coming first in the imperial examinations having rather gone to his head). At the order of Judge Bao, his faithful servant Zhan Zhao, who can be seen in the centre, executed Chen Shimei and saved the life of Qin Xianglian who Chen had plotted to murder.

The Legend of the White Snake a scene of which can be seen in Gao Made’s painting in the exhibition is one of the most popular dramas in the Peking Opera repertoire, not least because of the extraordinary acrobatic sequences that appear towards the climax of the story. The actor who plays the female lead – the White Snake – rarely leaves the stage during the entire length of the performance and has an extremely demanding role as both a singer and acrobat.

To place the story of the White Snake into geographical context we will first look at a poster that depicts West Lake in Hangzhou on a festival day in more recent times. In this scene a number of theatrical performances can be seen taking place amongst the thronging crowds. Towards the lower right-hand side of the scene can be seen a performance in miniature of the Model Opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (Zhiqu Weihushan 智取威虎山). Small though it is, it can be identified as the scene from this play in which the huntsman’s daughter Xiao Changbao 小常宝sings a solo aria in the company of the stories hero, a soldier of the People’s Liberation Army. It is interesting to note that the actress who played this role in the 1970 film became well known for her performance as Bai Suzhen, the lead role in “The Legend of the White Snake”.

An outline of the story is as follows:

At the time of the Qingming Festival, the white snake spirit, and her servant the green snake descend into the mortal world in human form as Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing. On arrival at West Lake, Hangzhou, Bai meets with a young scholar, Xu Xian who offers her his umbrella against the rain. They fall in love, are married, and soon after establish an apothecary shop in Zhenjiang. The Buddhist monk Fa Hai knows of Bai’s otherworldly origins and persuades Xu to give her realgar wine (made from arsenic sulphide), in full knowledge that by doing so she will reveal her true identity. Having drunk the wine she reverts to her original form and Xu Xian promptly dies of fright. This is the scene depicted in the painting, before her actual transformation. In order to bring her husband back to life, Bai Suzhen is compelled to risk her own life to go in search of the antidote, a magic herb, found only at Mount Emei.

This is often performed at the time of the Dragon Boat Festival when realgar wine is traditionally drunk to drive away poisonous creatures such as snakes, centipedes and scorpions. The scene is also known as Stunned by the Transformation at the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanyang jingbian 端陽驚變).

Gao Made, Chun Cao Outwits the Magistrate , 1989, Reyes Gift, EA1995.192 © the artist’s estate

A woman takes centre stage again in a second Peking Opera excerpt illustrated by Gao. This is a scene from Chun Cao Outwits the Magistrate (a.k.a. Chun Cao Braves the Court). In this story, a maidservant Chun Cao, learns that a righteous and morally upright man – typical of the young scholar gentleman of the time – is to be wrongly sentenced to death. She decides to trick the magistrate into believing that the accused is betrothed to her mistress, the prime minister’s daughter, as a ruse to save him. The two eventually marry.

The men in the scene depicted by Gao – four attendants and the magistrate leading at the front – are all examples of the clown role, known as chou 丑in Chinese, and the white make-up applied to the ridges of their noses indicates this to be the case. In the centre is Chun Cao.

New Year’s Print showing characters from the Water Margin, EA2006.3 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

In a popular woodblock print showing a scene from a Peking Opera version of the Ming dynasty novel the Water Margin three women appear amongst the assembled crowd.

Wearing full Peking Opera regalia and seated in the centre of the Hall of Loyalty and Righteousness (in this print a depiction of the typical theatrical stage on which Peking Opera is performed) is the leader of the 108 rebels, Song Jiang, and assembled around him can be seen several other key figures in the story:

Centre stage, out in front, is Li Kui, a fearsome character known as the Black Whirlwind who is the lead character in the Peking Opera scene depicted: Li Kui danao Zhongyitang 李逵大鬧忠義堂 (Li Kui Causes Havoc in the Hall of Loyalty and Righteousness), also known as: Dingjia shan 丁甲山 (Dingjia Mountain); Li Kui fanzui 李逵犯罪 Li Kui Commits an Offense; and Danao zhongyitang 大鬧忠義堂 Havoc in the Hall of Loyalty and Righteousness.

Standing on stage, to the right, is Lin Chong, one of the central figures in the popular Peking Opera Yezhulin (Wild Boar Forest). As with many full-length Peking Operas, Ye Zhulin was originally just a short excerpt from the Water Margin. On the left is Wu Song, whose story covers several chapters in the original novel: from the time when, under the influence of strong alcohol he beats a tiger to death with his bare hands and becomes the hero of the local villagers, to his involvement with the lecherous dealings of Ximen Qing and his own brother’s wife Pan Jinlian, both of whom meet their deaths at his hands for the murder of his brother.

To the left of the print can be seen three women. These are amongst the small number of women bandits that appear in the Ming dynasty novel:

At the back: Gu Dasao顧大嫂, nicknamed “Tigress” (Mu da chong 母大蟲 ), a prolific martial artist. In front, to the right, is Hu Sanniang扈三娘, also known as Yi Zhangqing 一丈青 (as indicated in this print). On the left is Sun Erniang孫二娘 who is nicknamed “Yaksha” (Mu yecha 母夜叉) after the female Buddhist spirit, due to her fierce and wild appearance.


In the Peking Opera Shizipo 十字坡 based on an episode in the book, Sun Erniang and her husband Zhang Qing own a tavern to which they lure travellers, drugging them, slaughtering them, and filling their steamed dumplings with their cooked flesh. Following an encounter with Wu Song (who did not fall for their ruse) and after a fierce fight between them, Wu becomes the sworn brother of Zhang Qing. The married couple later join the bandits at Liangshanbo.

Four matchboxes depicting figures in Peking Opera roles, EA2010.84 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Wu Song can be seen as he appears in the opera Shizipo on one of four matchboxes in the Ashmolean collection. These are just a small sample of a collection of several hundred matchboxes that was accumulated in China in the 1970s and 1980s, and entered the museum’s collection rather more recently. Three more examples show heroes from the Water Margin. The first two, on the left of the picture, show Sagacious Lu and Lin Chong as they appear in the popular opera Yezhulin (Wild Boar Forest). The fourth example shows Qin Ming, the “Fiery Thunderbolt” a brave warrior figure, as indicated by his painted face and long stage beard.

In the Water Margin print, the banner on the left above the heads of the assembled crowd tells us that they are all gathered together in the bandit’s lair – Liangshanbo – in the marshes far from the eyes of the imperial court. The banner on the right: “Root out the Cruel to make way for Peace” (Chubao anliang 除暴安良) is part of the maxim of the bandits at Liangshan, which continues: “Carry out ‘The Way’ for the Sake of Heaven” (Titian xingdao 替天行道).

This depiction of the Water Margin is an example of a New Year’s Picture, a type of popular print that often took Peking opera excerpts as its theme. The New Year’s Picture that appears in the exhibition “A Century of Women in Chinese Art” is rather different as it shows two women in a domestic scene. Despite being different in both theme and appearance these prints both served the same function: to act as auspicious decoration displayed as part of the New Year festivities. A related print again shows three women in a domestic setting. This is replete with symbolism, showing off particularly well the clothes of the young women that are very much of the same period as the silk jacket and skirt on display in the exhibition.

Embroidered Jacket, 20th century (before 1938), EA2015.32

Embroidered Skirt, 20th century (before 1938), EA2015.32

For more on women in martial arts, as seen in the Water Margin, see the next instalment of this blog.


Dr Paul Bevan, Christensen Fellow in Chinese Painting, Ashmolean Museum

11 July 2018 Guided tour of the exhibition with Dr Paul Bevan







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Women in the Cultural Revolution

In this blog we will be looking at a small number of the exhibits in the current exhibition “A Century of Women in Chinese Art” now on show at the Ashmolean Museum until the 14th of October 2018, with reference to a variety of additional objects in the museum’s collection that it has not been possible to include in the exhibition.

The Ashmolean Museum holds an extensive collection of objects from the Cultural Revolution period (1966-1976). One striking exhibit that appears in the exhibition is a ceramic figurine of a young woman in army uniform washing the floor with mop and pail.

Girl in Army Uniform with Bucket and Mop (1970-1979)
Porcelain figure, with polychrome glazes; wooden mop handle
Jingdezhen, Wade Gift, EA2010.78 © the artist

Throughout the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) the porcelain kilns at Jingdezhen, renowned as the imperial kilns since the early Ming dynasty (c.1400), continued to produce fine quality porcelain. Much of the output from this time used the forms and decoration of revolutionary imagery, often depicting Chairman Mao himself, heroes from revolutionary history, and in particular figures from the eight Yangbanxi – often known in English as the “Model Operas”. These revolutionary dramas, ubiquitous during the period and still hugely popular today, originally included five modern Peking Operas, two ballets – Red Detachment of Women and The White Haired Girl – and one symphonic work, the Shajiabang Symphony. Later the symphony was replaced by other theatrical productions. Women play central roles in all of these.

At the time of the Cultural Revolution, images taken from these popular dramas could be found reproduced on all manner of everyday objects, from thermos flasks to teapots, from biscuit tins to matchboxes. One example of the latter in the Ashmolean collection shows an image of the lead female character from The Legend of the Red Lantern (红灯记 Hongdeng ji) (EA2010.229.1). This drama tells the story of Li Tiemei and her role in the communist underground during the War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945); this conflict, and the civil war that succeeded it, being the most common themes on which these dramas were based.

Matchbox with image of Li Teimei from The Legend of the Red Lantern, Wade Gift, EA2010.229.1 © the artist

Perhaps the best known of the Model Operas is actually a ballet: The Red Detachment of Women (红色娘子军Hongse niangzijun). This tells the story of a young woman who escapes servitude on Hainan Island, one of the last stands of the Nationalists in the Civil War before the People’s Republic of China was established. Wu Qinghua defies the local gentry that have enslaved her, and the Nationalists authorities who prop up the corrupt landowners, and joins the “Red Detachment of Women” to overthrow them.

Another example, in which women are represented in their new role as active participants in the military struggle for a socialist society, is on display in the exhibition. This a woven silk picture based on an oil painting by the artist Luo Qi 罗祺 (b.1929) (EA2010.284). The scene depicted shows a group of armed female militia looking up towards the red glow at the mountain top, on which a gun placement can be seen and where the red flag of the People’s Republic of China is flying; the ‘red glow’ of the title alluding to the Chinese Communist Party and to Mao Zedong himself.

Red Glow (1964) after a painting by Luo Qi 罗祺 (b.1929)
Woven silk with applied colour pigments, EA2010.284 © the artist

Luo Qi’s original painting, on which this silk textile is based, was awarded the highest prize when it was displayed in the Fourth National Art Exhibition; the exhibition to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the PRC that took place in 1964. This silk example was woven in black and white and colour was later applied by hand, a speciality of the “Hangzhou Picture Weaving Factory” at which it was made.

Figures from The Red Detachment of Women can be seen in two sets of papercuts in the Ashmolean collection (EA2008.37.b). This story was known to all during the period of the Cultural Revolution and was performed across China, adapted to local theatrical forms using a host of different Chinese dialects. The most famous filmed version of the story is the ballet; so famous was it that it later became an inspiration for the American composer John Adam’s modern opera Nixon in China. The ballet version of the Red Detachment of Women was based on a hugely popular feature film that had been released in 1961 and the ballet was followed by a Peking Opera version.

Wu Qinghua from the ballet Red Detachment of Women
Gittings Gift, EA2008.37.b © the artist

For more on Peking Opera, see the next instalment of this blog.

In another set of paper cuts in the museum’s collection can be found an image of a woman dock worker, calling to mind the Model Opera On the Docks (Haigang 海港) (EA2008.34). This revolutionary drama, written by Xie Jin and originally staged in the 1960s, was filmed in 1972 and starred Li Lifang as Fang Haizhen. It tells the story of a team of dock workers loading a cargo of rice to be shipped to Africa, overseen by the heroine Fang Haizhen, local communist party secretary. A counterrevolutionary attempts to sabotage their mission by substituting glass fibre for the rice, but is discovered by Fang. The plot is foiled and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Papercut – Woman Docker
Gittings Gift, EA2008.34.c © the artist

A poster from the museum’s collection shows stars from the Model Operas, (EA2006.261). The main caption reads: ‘Long Live the Triumph of Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line of Literature and Art!’ It will be noticed that four of the ten figures depicted are women, although, Li Tiemei, from the Legend of the Red Lantern and Wu Qinghua are not amongst those shown here. In the front row can be seen Xi’er – the White Haired Girl, lead protagonist in the 1966 ballet, based on a story from the 1940s.  In the middle row, from right to left, can be seen the female leads from other revolutionary operas: Ke Xiang from Azalea Mountain (Dujuan shan) (1973), Jiang Shuiying from Ode to the Dragon River (Longjiang song) (1972), and, on the left, Fang Haizhen from On the Docks.

Poster – Characters from Revolutionary Operas, EA2006.261 © Shanghai People’s Publishing House

Another type of revolutionary woman altogether, can be seen in the 1971 print “There are Heroes Everywhere” Biandi yingxiong 遍地英雄 by the printmaker Zhang Chaoyang 張朝陽 (b.1945) (EA2007.90). This print, the title of which suggests that revolutionary heroes could be found in all walks of life, shows a harvest scene during the Cultural Revolution, at a time when young educated city dwellers had been sent “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” Shangshan xiaxiang 上山下鄉 to be “re-educated” by the local peasantry. The title of the print is taken from the final line of a poem by Chairman Mao, entitled, Dao Shaoshan 到韶山 (To Shaoshan) (1959) – one of many poems written by Mao Zedong – composed on a visit to his hometown after an absence of 32 years.

Zhang Chaoyang 張朝陽, “There are Heroes Everywhere” Biandi yingxiong 遍地英雄 (1970) EA2007.90  © the artist

In 1976, with the death of Mao, which brought the Cultural Revolution to a close, the educated youth slowly began to return to their hometowns. A scenario closely related to this can be seen in the 1977 print prominently shown in the exhibition “Returning after Graduation” Biye guilai 毕业归来 by Li Xiu李秀 (b.1943), an impressive, large multi-block woodcut print using oil-based inks (EA2007.43).

From just a few clues in the detail of this print it can be deduced that the three young people in the picture have returned to their hometown in southwestern China following their graduation in Beijing (note the copy of Beijing Daily in the pocket of the young man). They had certainly been roughing it on their journey, as the number on the side of the train reveals the information that they had been travelling in a “hard seat” carriage, on a long distance sleeper, with no air conditioning; a journey, from the Chinese capital to Kunming in Yunnan, of almost 2,000 miles.

Li Xiu李秀, “Returning after Graduation” Biye guilai 毕业归来 (1977), multi-block woodcut printed with oil-based inks, EA2007.43  © the artist

The young lady and the man to her left are dressed in the costume of the Yi, a minority people found in the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi. The other figures in the print are wearing the uniform of the People’s Liberation Army. This conveys an atmosphere of new found hope and freedom, having been made in the year immediately following the end of the Cultural Revolution. Following its appearance, this print quickly became one of the most published in China. It is often regarded as a depiction of the artist’s own experience, Li Xiu herself being a member of the Yi minority. The smiling faces, beaming with unbridled delight, show traces of the distinctive style that was often seen in the art of that period, for example, with the figurine of the girl with a mop and in the faces on the poster depicting the figures from the Model Operas. On another poster in the Ashmolean collection such delighted expressions can be seen again. Here the caption reads: “Long Live the Great People’s Republic of China”

Poster – “Long Live the Great People’s Republic of China”, based on an original painting by Jiao Huanzhi (1928-1982) and Sun Quan (active 1974), EA2006.267 © People’s Fine Arts Publishing House

The Ashmolean Museum is currently offering a travelling exhibition on the theme of the Cultural Revolution to venues round the country. See leaflet here.

Events linked to the “A Century of Women in Chinese Art” exhibition:

16 June 2018 Women in Chinese Art Symposium

11 July 2018 Guided tour of the exhibition with Dr Paul Bevan


Dr Paul Bevan, Christensen Fellow in Chinese Painting, Ashmolean Museum

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