Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Chinese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

A catalogue of the Ashmolean collection of Chinese paintings by Shelagh Vainker (published Oxford, 2000).

Chinese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford by Shelagh Vainker

Publications online: 222 objects

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Wenji Returns to the Han

  • Literature notes

    The inscription suggests that Wang [Qiucen] was active in Shanghai.
  • Description

    Wang Qiucen, born in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, is a Shanghai School painter best known for his traditional figure painting. The short poem inscribed on this painting was composed by him, and shows his intellectual background: ‘She wakes up from a short dream and finds herself leaning in the camel’s shadow; her yearning for home follows the wild geese in the sky’.

    The story of Cai Wenji (c.AD 177-244) was first recorded in the History of Later Han, and was later portrayed in many dramas and novels. Wenji was well known for her musical talent. During the war, she was captured by Hun soldiers and married to a Hun prince. After twelve years, she was returned to the Han after the Chinese emperor offered gold and jades to get her back. In this painting, the tent, camel, and Wenji’s nomadic clothes suggest she is on her way back to the Central Plain. The wild geese are depicted as messengers flying back to the south. According to historical records,Wenji was forced to leave her Hun children behind, but here she is accompanied by her son and looks much happier than in most versions.

  • Details

    Associated place
    AsiaChina Shanghai province (place of creation)
    1912 - 1966
    Wang Qiucen (1912 - 1993) (artist)
    Associated people
    Cai Wenji (c. AD 177 - 244) (subject)
    Material and technique
    ink and colour on paper
    mount 195 x 40.7 cm (height x width)
    painting 88.3 x 27.7 cm (height x width)
    along roller 49 cm (length)
    Material index
    Technique index
    Object type index
    No. of items
    Credit line
    Purchased, 1966.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    Vainker, Shelagh, Chinese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2000), no. 1.6 on p. 200, illus. p. 201 fig. 1.6

Past Exhibition

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    • currently in research collection

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