A Diplomatic Mission to the Jin, Attributed to Yang Bangji (Chinese, ca. 1110–1181), Handscroll; ink and color on silk, China

金 傳楊邦基 聘金圖 巻
A Diplomatic Mission to the Jin

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)
Credit Line:
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1982
Accession Number:
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

Label strip[1]

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 [1805] 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

嘉慶十年雲谷邀予持此無款畫過翁覃溪鴻臚,毅然斷以為馬遠之作,且細指其精微澹遠之趣。今越八年,讀之而信。癸酉三月十九日友石齋中伊秉綬記。 [印]: 墨卿、吾得之忠信

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 [1814]. [Seal]: Xie Lansheng yin

此圖當是長巻,因剝蝕脫去前後矣。細玩用筆,時或微於絲髮,而皆懸腕中鋒,非宋人高手不辦。雲谷向於畫肆以賤值得之,論者指為馬待詔,以畫近院體,待詔則院中獨步故耳。嘉慶甲戌夏五里甫謝蘭生題。 [印]: 謝蘭生印

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

以筆墨論,於燕文貴、劉松年為近;馬遠有此古勁,無此清遠也。翁正三考據碑版金石較詳,而於書法之神理往往不暇尋索,若畫理相去不知幾由旬矣。余生平獲觀馬遠真跡綦多,與此不類,既無款識,未敢指為誰何之作,概以宋人,庶無訾焉。是卷歷經裝池,為劣匠掀去命紙,致令神彩稍遜,亦憾事也。羅天池觀於海山仙館。 [印]: 羅氏六湖

4. Chen Rentao 陳仁濤 (active mid-20th c.), 37 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1953; 3 seals:

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.”[2] 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 [1953]. [Seals]: Jingui Shi, Jingui Shi Zhu, Chen shi Rentao

右绢本長巻,余名之曰 《聘金圖》,北畫中罕見之劇跡也。中作驛亭,翼以長松。右簇巖谷,左峙闗梁。關梁之外,杳靄蒼烟,剩山殘水,若有若無。亭中几案空陳,酒漿不設。亭南金驛使三,一抱琵琶,作酬客已將歸狀;二吏拱立道左迎勞之。獨亭西石磴上一漢服賤役,眷眷目送中使行。石磴西中使四輩,神態蕭瑟,竊議馬上未即行。又西一金卒攬轡返顧,若吭聲速之。又西一卒,背驛書,驟馬似銜命飭闗聽使歸。蓋宋季喪敗之辱,金人驕矜之情,披斯圖也,舉可於無言筆墨之外,歷歷得之。圖舊以為宋人筆,伊秉綬、翁方綱以為出馬遠,羅天池以為近燕文貴、劉松年,皆非是。良以全圖主題在金,宋人不應有此。圖外寄慨深隱,金人亦所不為。意者殆播遷之後,宋遺民之仕金者,不勝喬木故國之感,而傷心人別具懷抱者之所作歟?而風格尤與楊邦基為近。邦基字德懋,陜西華陰人。仕金為秘書少監、翰林學士、永興軍節度使。善畫山水人馬。父綯,宋易州州佐;城陷,戕於金。邦基以齒稚匿僧舍得免。則固忠烈之嗣,而祚移鼎遷,服官於讎仇之國者也。所謂孤臣孽子,其操心也危,其慮患也深。其腐心刻意,以成斯圖,以曲達拳拳本朝之心也宜。抑予于昔年所見其仿李成山水,老松離披,人物遒潔,與此圖如出一手。然則此巻殆即楊祕監所製歟?癸巳冬日陳仁濤識。 [印]: 金匱室,金匱室主,陳氏仁濤

Collectors' seals

Wen Zhengming 文徵明 (1470–1559)
Zhengming jianding 徵明鑑定

Wang Hui 王翬 (1632–1717)
Shigu jianshang 石谷鑑賞

Bi Yuan 畢沅 (1730–1797)
Qiufan shi jiacang 秋帆氏家藏

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

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

Illegible: 10

[1] Documentation from Shi-yee Liu, “Epitome of National Disgrace: A Painting Illuminating Song-Jin Diplomatic Relations,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 45 (2010): 77-80.
[2] The quotation is from the chapter “Jinxin” of The Book of Mencius.
[ Ellen B. Elliott , Princeton, NJ, until 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.