The Shanglin Park: Imperial Hunt

View right to left

Artist: Attributed to Qiu Ying 仇英 (ca. 1494-1552)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, late 16th century to mid 17th century (ca. 1640)
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 44.9 x 1281.1 cm (17 11/16 x 504 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


blue-and-green style, China, hunting, landscape, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)

To 1913
Edmund Backhouse (1873-1944), Peking, to 1913 [1]

From 1913 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Edmund Backhouse through T.J. Larkin, London, in 1913 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record. See also, Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 923, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Edmund Backhouse (C.L. Freer source) 1873-1944


Outside his capital of Chang'an (modern Xi'an, Shaanxi Province), Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty (reigned 141-87 B.C.E.) set aside a large wilderness preserve for imperial hunts and excursions, and commissioned the poet Sima Xiangru (179-117 B.C.E.) to compose a long prose poem, or rhapsody (fu), to record its many pleasures. Sima's dazzling verbal description of the park's terrain and the extravagant hunts that took place in it, has long been celebrated as one of the most extraordinary displays of poetic creativity in the Chinese language. His fu served as the basis for this composition by the Ming dynasty painter Qiu Ying, who created The Imperial Park over a five-year period.

Executed in the meticulous blue-and-green style, Qiu's painting was immediately hailed by contemporaries as one of his greatest masterpieces. His initial version of the painting is apparently lost, but the composition survives in several copies, such as the work seen here, which may be an early second version. More than twelve-and-a-half meters of silk in length and painted with various costly pigments--including blue and green mineral colors created from crushed azurite and malachite--this lavish scroll was undoubtedly intended for a collector of expensive taste and considerable wealth. The section displayed here illustrates the following passage of Sima's poem:

Detached palaces, separate lodges,
Stretch over the mountains, straddle the valleys:
Tall corridors pour out in four directions,
With double decks and twisting passageways;
Fitted with ornate rafters and jade finials,
Carriage roads are laced and linked together.
In the covered walkways to walk completely around,
Long is the course and midway one must halt for the night.
On leveled peaks they built the halls,

With tiered terraces rising story upon story,
And cavernous rooms in the crags and crannies.
Downward through the deep darkness nothing can be seen;
Upward, one may clutch the rafters to touch the sky.
Shooting stars pass through the doors and wickets;
Arching rainbows stretch over the rails and porches.

Translation adapted from David R. Knechtges, trans., Wen Xuan, or Selections of Refined Literature, vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 89.

Published References
  • Laurence Binyon. Chinese Paintings in English Collections. Paris and Brussels. pl. 59.
  • Edmund Backhouse, John Otway Percy Bland. Annals and Memoirs of the Court of Peking, From the 16th to the 20th Century., 2nd ed. London. op. p. 230.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.