Portrait of Li Xiangjun

Cui He Chinese

Not on view

This painting portrays Li Xiangjun (fl. mid-seventeenth century), a courtesan celebrated for rebuking powerful but treacherous politicians and risking her life to remain chaste for her true love, Hou Fangyu (1618–1654). When a high-ranking official tried to take her by force, Li struck her head against the floor in an attempted suicide. Her blood spattered a fan given to her by Hou, which was later transformed into a painting of peach blossoms. This heroic deed was immortalized in Peach Blossom Fan, a well-known play by Kong Shangren (1648–1718). Above the painting is a transcription of Hou Fangyu's biography of Li.

Here Li is shown in her boudoir holding a fan painted with peach blossoms. She leans against a circular opening framed by willow boughs, symbolic of her profession as a courtesan, and a grove of blossoming trees. An open book on the table tells us that she is not only virtuous but also literate.

Twelve colophons embellish this scroll, mostly written by scholars from northeastern Zhejiang between 1916 and 1927. Lin Yutang, who greatly admired Li Xiangjun, added the last colophon below the painting after purchasing it in 1934.

Portrait of Li Xiangjun, Cui He (Chinese, active 1800–1850), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China

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