‘China’s Mona Lisa’ Is Almost 6 Yards Long

The painting is called Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú. Qīngmíng (清明) means “clear-bright,” and Shànghé Tú (上河圖) means “going-along-the-river-picture.” (Image:  wikimedia /  CC0 1.0)
The painting is called Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú. Qīngmíng (清明) means “clear-bright,” and Shànghé Tú (上河圖) means “going-along-the-river-picture.” (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

One of the most famous Chinese paintings, often referred to as “China’s Mona Lisa,” has a connection to the annual Qingming Festival, celebrated in April on the Western calendar.

The painting is called Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú. Qīngmíng (清明) means “clear-bright,” and Shànghé Tú (上河圖) means “going-along-the-river-picture.”

famous Chinese paintings

The bridge scene where the crew of an oncoming boat have not yet fully lowered their sails and are in danger of crashing into the bridge. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Its name has varying translations from “Spring Festival,” “Along the River During the Qīngmíng Festival,” and “Peace Reigns Over the River.”

The painting is an enormous panorama, painted in a single color on silk by the 12th-century Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan.

famous Chinese paintings

Scene of urban sprawl right before the bridge leading to the main gate of the city, as seen on the far left. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

It stretches 5.74 yards (5.25 meters) in length and is 10 inches (25.5 centimeters) high.

Over 800 years old, the painting was returned to Beijing after World War II and has rarely been displayed since, being kept safe in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

famous Chinese paintings

The main gate of the city and the urban setting within, with teahouses, vendors, homes, and various figures interacting with one another. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú has been copied by many artists over the centuries — a common practice and legitimate art form — who revered the old masters and sometimes added scenes or details relevant to their own times.

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