Attributed to Yang Bangji (Chinese, ca. 1110–1181)
Jin dynasty (1115–1234)
ca. late 1150s
Handscroll; ink and color on silk
Image: 10 1/2 in. × 56 in. (26.7 × 142.2 cm)
Overall with mounting: 11 5/8 in. × 26 ft. 11 3/4 in. (29.5 × 822.3 cm)
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1982
Not on view
After the Jurched Jin conquered northern China in 1127, the Chinese court fled from Kaifeng to the southern city of Hangzhou. To maintain peace on the northern border of their shrunken empire, the Chinese paid annual tributes amounting to 200,000 taels of silver and 200,000 bolts of silk.
Although there is no inscription to confirm it, the theme of this scroll may be the Song envoys meeting those of the Jin. Painters under the Jin continued the styles of the Northern Song, albeit with modifications. In contrast to the dramatic scale of the massive peaks in Northern Song painting, the forms here stress surface abstraction; the mountains are softened with green wash and the valleys are laced with mist.
Inscription: No artist's inscription, signature, or seal
Chen Rentao 陳仁濤 (1906–1968), 1 column in standard script, undated:
A Diplomatic Mission to the Jin by Yang Bangji (ca. 1110–1181) of the Jin dynasty (1115–1234)
1. Yi Bingshou 伊秉綬 (1754–1815), 7 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1813; 2 seals:
In the tenth year of the Jiaqing reign era  Yungu [Ye Menglong, 1775–1832] invited me to take this anonymous painting to see Minister of the Court of State Ceremonial, Weng Tanxi [Weng Fanggang, 1733–1818], who firmly identified it as Ma Yuan’s (active ca. 1190–1225) work. He also pointed out in detail its refinement and subtle depth. It has been eight years since then. Now viewing it, I am convinced. On the nineteenth of the third lunar month in the guiyou year [April 19, 1813] Yi Bingshou recorded this in the Youshi Zhai studio. [Seals]: Moqing, Wu dezhi zhongxin
2. Xie Lansheng 謝蘭生 (1760–1831), 4 columns in standard script, dated 1814; 1 seal:
This painting must have been a longer scroll but lost part of its beginning and end due to damages. Examining its brushwork, I found lines sometimes thinner than a hair but all executed with centered tip of a brush held from a suspended wrist, of which none but the Song masters were capable. Yungu bought it from a painting store at a low price. It has been identified as a work by Painter-in-attendance Ma [Yuan] because its style was close to that of the Academy and Ma was the best of the Academy’s painters. Xie Lansheng, Lifu, inscribed this in summer, the fifth lunar month, of the jiaxu year in the Jiaqing reign era . [Seal]: Xie Lansheng yin
3. Luo Tianchi 羅天池 (1805–after 1856), 10 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 1 seal:
In terms of brushwork, [this painting] is close to those by Yan Wengui (active ca. 970–1030) and Liu Songnian (active ca. 1175–after 1195). Ma Yuan’s brushwork has comparable vigor and antique flavor, but not its purity and expansiveness. Weng Zhengsan [Weng Fanggang] did detailed research on stone and bronze inscriptions, but seldom spent time probing the spirit and principle of calligraphy. On painting he was even farther from correct. I have seen many genuine works by Ma Yuan in my life, which bear no resemblance to this painting. Since it has no [artist’s] signature, I dare not name anyone as the painter. No one should complain, though, if I categorically attribute it to a Song master. This scroll has been remounted several times. A certain bad conservator peeled off its original backing paper, and the painting lost some of its luster as a result. It is regrettable. Luo Tianchi viewed this in the Haishan Xianguan Studio [of the Pan family in Guangzhou]. [Seal]: Luo shi Liuhu
The long handscroll on silk to the right, which I entitled A Diplomatic Mission to the Jin, is a rare masterwork among northern paintings. In it is a courier pavilion-station with tall pines on its sides. To the right stand clustered mountains and valleys; to the left is a pass with a bridge. Beyond the pass and the bridge, fragmented views of mountains and waters flicker in and out of distant clouds and dark mist. In the pavilion the table is empty without wine utensils. To the south of the pavilion are three members of the Jin courier station. The one holding a lute seems bidding farewell to his guests before his return. To the left of the path stand two clerks with clasped hands expressing goodwill and gratitude. Alone on the stone steps to the west of the pavilion is a lowly menial in Han costume, reluctant to see the Chinese delegation leave. To the west of the stone steps are four Chinese emissaries. Looking low-spirited, they whisper among themselves on horseback rather than hit the road right away. Further west, a Jin soldier holds the reins and looks back, seeming to stir the horse with an utterance. Still to the west, a soldier with a courier’s letter on his back speeds the horse, seemingly on a mission to order the pass’s gatekeeper to allow the emissaries’ return. Spreading out this painting, one vividly senses the humiliation of the defeated Song regime and the arrogance of the Jin through the silent brush and ink. It used to be considered a Song work. Yi Bingshou and Weng Fanggang thought it was painted by Ma Yuan. Luo Tianchi thought it was close to Yan Wengui’s or Liu Songnian’s style. They were all wrong. Since the painting’s subject is the Jin, it shouldn’t have been painted by a Song artist. But there is deep, hidden meaning beyond the painted images that a Jurchen artist would not have tried either. In my opinion, after the court moved [to the south], a former Song subject who turned to serve the Jin may have painted it out of longing for the past nation, a sad man with conflicting emotions. Its style particularly reminds me of Yang Bangji. Bangji, whose zi is Demao, was a native of Huayin in Shaanxi. Under the Jin, he served as Vice Director of the Palace Library, Hanlin Academician, and Military Commissioner of Yongxingjun [present-day Xi’an region]. He painted landscapes, human figures, and horses well. His father, Tao, served as Assistant Administrator of Yizhou [present-day Yi Xian, Hebei] under the Song. At the fall of the city, he was killed by the Jin army. Bangji, a young child, hid in a Buddhist temple and escaped death. He was, therefore, a descendant of a loyalist, who served his enemies after the dynastic change. He was the so-called “official of a perished ruler or son of a concubine who worries with a sense of urgency and fears disasters with deep apprehension.” It was only appropriate that he exhausted his mind and thought to paint this scroll to express obliquely his inner loyalty to his own country. Years ago I saw his landscape painting after the style of Li Cheng (919–967). In it old pines spread disarrayed branches and the human figures appear energetic and spirited, which seemed to be painted by the same artist as this scroll. So shouldn’t this scroll come from the hand of Vice Director of the Palace Library Yang as well? Chen Rentao wrote in the winter of the guisi year . [Seals]: Jingui Shi, Jingui Shi Zhu, Chen shi Rentao
Ye Menglong 葉夢龍 (1775–1832) Yungu jiacang 雲谷家藏 Ye shi Liujie ? Zhai shuhua yin 葉氏六皆囗齋書畫印
Meng Jinyi 孟覲乙 (active first half of 19th c.) Litang jianding 麗堂鑑定
Xu Xiang 許鴹 (Qing dynasty) Qi An xinshang 屺庵心賞 Qi An bingchen fan Yun hou suode 屺庵丙辰返雲後所得
Chen Kuilin 陳夔麟 (1855–1928) Baoyu Ge shuhua ji 寳迂閣書畫記
Song Qi 宋岐 (1878–1943) Song Qi siyin 宋岐私印 Shanyin Song Shouyao zi Tiyun hao Zhishan hang shiwu jiancang jinshi tushu 山陰宋壽堯字梯雲號支山行十五鋻藏金石圖書 Tiyun guomu 梯雲過目 Xiao Song shending 小宋審定
Chen Rentao 陳仁濤 (1906–1968) Jingui Shi 金匱室 Rentao 仁濤 Jingui baocang Chen shi Rentao 金匱寶藏陳氏仁濤 Rentao qiyuan 仁濤奇緣 Jingui baocang 金匱寶藏 Jingui Shi jingjian xi 金匱室精鋻璽 Jingui Shi cang shenqi miaoyi wushang guyi 金匱室藏神奇妙逸無上古藝 Jingui miji 金匱秘笈 Wushuang 無雙
Ma Jizuo 馬積祚 (1915–2009) Ma Jizuo jianshang zhang 馬積祚鑑賞章
Unidentified Fang shi Shi 方氏適 Yunpu shi jiacang shuhua ji 芸浦氏家藏書畫記 Lu gui zhi yin 盧貴之印 Qianling Shanqiao 黔靈山樵 Pan shi Suyun zhencang shuhua yin 潘氏涑筠珍藏書畫印 Tiehua jianding 鐡華鑑定 Jingxiu xinshang 敬修心賞 Guomu 過目
 Documentation from Shi-yee Liu, “Epitome of National Disgrace: A Painting Illuminating Song-Jin Diplomatic Relations,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 45 (2010): 77-80.  The quotation is from the chapter “Jinxin” of The Book of Mencius.
[ Ellen B. Elliott , Princeton, NJ, 1981; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Traditional Scholarly Values at the End of the Qing Dynasty: The Collection of Weng Tonghe (1830–1904)," June 30, 1998–January 3, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12, 2004–August 8, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632–1717)," September 9, 2008–January 4, 2009.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection I," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.