元 佚名 臨王振鵬 金明池圖 卷 Dragon Boat Regatta on Jinming Lake
After Wang Zhenpeng (Chinese, active ca. 1275–1330)
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
14th century (?)
Handscroll; ink on silk
Image: 13 1/2 x 17 ft 6 in. (34.3 cm x 53.8 m)
Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 1966
Not on view
Dragon boat races are traditionally held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to commemorate the death of the virtuous minister Qu Yuan (343–277 B.C.), who drowned himself to refute slander. Depicted here is a race sponsored by Emperor Huizong (r. 1101–25) on the third day of the third month, on Jinming ("Golden Bright") Lake, which was located in an imperial park at the Northern Song capital of Kaifeng.
The picture is a remarkable example of jiehua, or "ruled-line," painting, the intricate style of depicting architecture perfected by Wang Zhenpeng. According to the inscription, Wang executed this painting in 1323 for the Grand Elder Princess Sennge (ca. 1283–1331), the older sister of Emperor Renzong (r. 1312–20), after a similar composition he had painted for Renzong in 1310.
A powerful figure in the Mongol court, Princess Sennge was one of the foremost art collectors of the age, and her seals appear on many early paintings and calligraphies. Two of her seals are impressed on the Metropolitan scroll: one in the upper-right corner of the painting, the other following Wang's inscription. The weak carving of the legends and the harsh color of the seal paste, however, suggest that both seals are forgeries. The stiffness of Wang's clerical-script inscription also marks it as a copy. The subject was immensely popular—at least five other versions of this composition exist. The Metropolitan's painting appears to be a later fourteenth-century copy of Wang's famous composition.
Inscription: Artist’s signature (1 column in clerical script, undated):
Servitor Wang Zhenpeng
Artist’s colophon (18 columns in clerical script, dated 1323):
In the Chongning reign era [1102–06], the Jinming [Golden Bright] Lake used to be opened on the third day of the third lunar month and prizes were offered so that the citizens could share its pleasure with the monarch. This is described in detail in the Dreams of the Splendor of the Eastern Capital [Menghua lu by Meng Yuanlao]. In the gengxu year of the Zhida reign era , it happened to be the “Festival of a Thousand Springs” [i.e., the royal birthday] of his imperial highness, the heir-apparent, the future emperor Renzong, when I did a painting depicting this subject for presentation [as a birthday gift]. I inscribed on the painting the following poem: On the third day of the third lunar month the Golden Bright Pond was bustling with games of the giant dragon boats, Amidst the thundering applause and cacophony of drumbeats and music. The aura of joy was radiant as the sun and brightened the flags and banners. Although the prizes could not be worth much, the river-boys from the Wu District Were heedless in the height of their ecstasy. They remind us of all the foolish competitors of the world Who strive forward by inches and backward by feet. But what actually counts is the idea of shared pleasures with the entire populace. For that reason alone, I dare to compose this piece of ‘soundless poetry’ [painting]. The Heir-apparent leads a simple life and indulges himself in no excesses. In the garden of the arts and the forest of books alone, he enjoys himself with spiritual and visual pleasures. Today on the occasion of his royal birthday, I respectfully record this for posterity – As a ‘golden example for the coming thousands of years.’ I respectfully recall that on that occasion Her Imperial Highness, Dazhang Gongzhu [The Grand Elder Princess] had seen my painting. Now, after a lapse of more than twelve year, I am instructed to make another version of the same composition. My eyesight however, is not as good as before. Even though I have tried my best to comply, I am still deeply afraid that the painting is unworthy of presentation for her royal scrutiny. In the late spring of the guihai year of the Zhizhi reign era  Linjiling (In charge of the Granary), Wang Zhenpeng, prostrating himself, respectfully painted and wrote this.