This handscroll is one of a set that illustrates the 305 poems in the Shijing (The Book of Odes), a work traditionally believed to have been compiled by Confucius (551–479 B.C.). The scrolls were made at the court of Gaozong (r. 1127–62), the first emperor of the Southern Song dynasty, and the transcriptions they bear, probably inscribed by either a scribe or a consort, are written in Gaozong's regular-script style. The accompanying paintings are the work of Ma Hezhi, a court artist known for his "orchid-leaf" brushstroke, a distinctive type of undulating brush line.
The poems illustrated in this scroll are known as the Odes of the State of Bin, for they were believed to have been the songs of Bin (in modern Shensi Province), the ancient homeland of the founders of the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1100–256 B.C.). These odes are the last in the section known as Guofeng ("Airs from the States"), which contains poems gathered from all over the realm so that the Zhou king might learn what his people were thinking and feeling.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature or seal
Zhao Jianbai 趙堅白 (active late 19th c.?), 1 column in semi-cursive script, undated; 4 seals:
《豳風圖 》 歸安趙堅白珍藏。 [印]： 堅白墨緣、渭秝審定 [另二印不辨]
Inscriptions on the painting
Unidentified artist in the style of the Song emperor Gaozong (r. 1127-1162), in 7 sections:
Section 1 (35 columns in standard script, undated):
In the seventh month the fire ebbs; In the ninth month I hand out the coats. In the days of the first [month] sharp frosts; In the days of the second [month] keen winds. Without coats, without serge, How should they finish the year? In the days of the third [month] they plough; In the days of the fourth [month] out I step With my wife and children, Bringing hampers to the southern acre Where the field-hands come to take good cheer.
In the seventh month the fire ebbs; In the ninth month I hand out the coats. But when the spring days grow warm And the oriole sings The girls take their deep baskets And follow the path under the wall To gather the soft mulberry-leaves:
In the tenth month the cricket goes under my bed. I stop up every hold to smoke out the rats, Plugging the windows, burying the doors: 'Come, wife and children, The change of the year is at hand. Come and live in this house.'
In the sixth month we eat wild plums and cherries, In the seventh month we boil mallows and beans. In the eighth month we dry the dates, In the tenth month we take the rice To make with it the spring wine, So that we may be granted long life. In the seventh month we eat melons, In the eighth month we cut the gourds, In the ninth month we take the seeding hemp, We gather bitter herbs, we cut the ailanto for firewood, That our husbandmen may eat.
In the ninth month we make ready the stackyards, In the tenth month we bring in the harvest, Millet for wine, millet for cooking, the early and the late, Paddy and hemp, beans and wheat. Come, my husbandmen, My harvesting is over, Go up and begin your work in the house, In the morning gather thatch-reeds, In the evening twist rope; 'The spring days are drawing out; They gather the white aster in crowds. A girl's heart is sick and sad Till with her lord she can go home.'
I the seventh month the fire ebbs; In the eighth month they pluck the rushes, In the silk-worm month they gather the mulberry-leaves, Take that chopper and bill To lop the far boughs and high, Pull towards them the tender leaves. In the seventh month the shrike cries; In the eighth month they twist thread, The black thread and the yellow: 'With my red dye so bright I make a robe for my lord.'
In the fourth month the milkwort is in spike, In the fifth month the cicada cries. In the eighth month the harvest is gathered, In the tenth month the boughs fall. In the days of the first [month] we hunt the racoon, And take those foxes and wild-cats To make furs for our Lord. In the days of the second [month] is the great Meet; Practice for deeds of war. The one-year-old [boar] we keep; The three-year-old we offer to our Lord.
In the fifth month the locust moves its leg, In the sixth month the grasshopper shakes its wing, In the seventh month, out in the wilds; In the eighth month in the farm, In the ninth month, at the door. Go quickly on to the roofs. Soon you will be beginning to sow your many grains.
In the days of the second [month] they cut the ice with tingling blows; In the days of the third [month] they bring it into the cold shed. In the days of the fourth [month] very early They offer lambs and garlic. In the ninth month are shrewd frosts; In the tenth month they clear the stackgrounds. With twin pitchers they hold the village feast, Killing for it a young lamb. Up they go into their lord's hall, Raise the drinking-cup of buffalo-horn: 'Hurray for our lord; may he live for ever and ever!'
Section 3 (23 columns in standard script, undated):
I went to the eastern hills; Long was it till I came back. Now I am home from the east; How the drizzling rain pours! I am back from the east, But my heart is very sad. You made for me that coat and gown 'Lest my soldier should go secret ways.' Restless the silkworm that writhes When one puts it on the mulberry-bush; Staunch I bore the lonely nights, On the ground, under my cart.
I went to the eastern hills; Long, long was it till I came back. Now I am home from the east; How the drizzling rain pours! The fruit of the bryony Has spread over the eaves of my house. There are sowbugs in this room; There were spiders' webs on the door. In the paddock were the marks of wild deer, The light of the watchman glimmers. These are not things to be feared, But rather to rejoice in.
I went to the eastern hills; Long, long was it till I came back. When I came from the east, How the drizzling rain did pour! A stork was crying on the ant-hill; That means a wife sighing in her chamber.