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Painting Catalogue of the Hsüan-ho Collection

Tags: National Palace Museum | rare books | Yuan dynasty


Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368)
25 x 16 cm (print: 20 x 12 cm) 
Anonymous, Sung dynasty (960-1279)
1302 Yüan dynasty Hangchow imprint by Wu Wen-kuei

This book is a catalogue describing the imperial collection of painting in the inner court under Emperor Hui-tsung (r. 1101-1125) and an important source of information on early Chinese painting. Divided into ten sections according to the subject matter of painting, it is composed of 20 chüan (chapters). The contents mention 231 artists from the Chin (265-317) to the Northern Sung (960-1126) as well as 6396 hanging scrolls and even Japanese painting. Completed in 1120, the editor(s) remain unknown. However, it appears to have been composed by officials at court and submitted to Hui-tsung. Though coming from several hands, it is uniform throughout.

The publication of this text took place sometime during the reign of Emperor Kao-tsung (r. 1127-1162), after the government had moved south following the fall of the Northern Sung. No other Sung publications of this text are mentioned elsewhere. The 1302 printing by a Mr. Wu in Hangchow during the Yüan dynasty (1279-1368) was the second time this text was reprinted. The third time was in 1540, during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The text was also reprinted and recorded in a private collection of the late Ming and one in the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911), making for a total of five editions. The earliest one, the Kao-tsung edition, has long since been lost. The 1302 edition, except for the copy now in the Museum, is not recorded in any other collection. Therefore, this book is not only the earliest surviving copy of this text, but also an important source for cross-reference with later reprintings. As to when it entered the Ch’ing imperial collection, no mention is found in the continuation of the catalogue to the T’ien-lu lin-lang library. However, judging from the seals and inscriptions in the book, it once was appreciated by famous painters and passed through the hands of book collectors, such as Chao Yen-ho, Lu Chih, Sun K’o-hung, Wang Shih-min, and Ku Mei.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum