Media only: Brenda Kean Tabor: 202.357.4880 ext. 319
Barbara Kram: 202.357.4880 ext. 219
Public only: 202.357.2700
Media preview: Monday, September 9, 9 a.m. Call 202.357.4880 ext. 218 to attend.
Palaces and Pavilions: Grand Architecture in Chinese Painting

Twenty-six paintings, one work of calligraphy and two three-dimensional objects will be on view at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art (Independence Avenue at 12th Street S.W.) from Sept. 29, to March 30, 2003 in “Palaces and Pavilions: Grand Architecture in Chinese Painting,” an exhibition illustrating how imperial structures and mythical Daoist palaces have been pictured over the centuries in Chinese art.

“Despite its imposing quality and intricate detail, grand architecture is seldom the primary subject of Chinese painting and often serves merely as a decorative backdrop to human events and activities,” says curator Stephen Allee. Nevertheless, grand historical palaces and pleasure houses populated by courtiers and palace women, and palaces in paradise and other imaginary places populated by goddesses and other immortals, have frequently been depicted over the centuries in a broad range of styles and media and described in famous works of literature.

Many of the works seen here, which date from the 13th-century through the 18th-century, were meticulously painted in bright colors on silk while others were executed in monochrome ink using either the free-hand linear “baihua” (plain outline) style or the intricate ruled line “jiehua” method of painting, the only non-freehand style of Chinese painting. Highlights include:

  • the most monumental surviving hanging scroll by Xing Tong; a leading calligrapher of the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Object number F1990.14.
  • a 17th-century Ming dynasty (1369–1644) handscroll depicting a multitude of Daoist immortals accompanied by animals and attendants, journeying to visit the Queen Mother of the West on the occasion of her birthday. Also pictured are the palace in the clouds, the gardens containing the peaches of immortality; musicians and dancing cranes of immortality. Object number F1908.170.
  • a fan mounted as an album leaf depicting buildings on a rocky promontory by a lake Object number F1909.245u.
  • a pair of album leaves by Xia Yong (mid-14th-century) picturing two famous public pavilions. One, the Prince of Teng’s Pavilion, was situated on the Nanchang city wall facing the Gan River in Jiangxi Province. A short paragraph composed at the site by Wang Bo (ca. 650–ca. 676) is one of the most frequently anthologized compositions in Chinese literature. Object numbers F1915.36h and 1915.36i.
  • a pair of hanging scrolls featuring two well-known private pavilions: the Hall of Scenic Beauty and the Hall of Precious Paintings. Built in 1057, The Hall of Scenic Beauty in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province became a popular destination for day trips and appears in many contemporary poems. Object number F1909.156 and F1909.157.
  • a tri-colored carved lacquer food box by Wang Ming (late 15th-century) F1968.76 a-b
  • a glazed clay model of a watch tower from the second century. Models of this kind are often found in Eastern dynasty (25–220) tombs. Object number F1907.68

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Christmas Day, Dec. 25, and admission is free. Public tours are offered daily. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call 202.357.2700 or TTY 202.357.1729, or visit the galleries’ Web site at

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