Searching for My Parents

Huang Xiangjian Chinese

Not on view

This painting illustrates Huang Xiangjian's perilous journey through Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces in one of the most celebrated acts of filial piety in late imperial Chinese history. In 1643 Huang's father was appointed county magistrate in Yunnan, and for nearly a decade thereafter, Huang heard nothing from his parents. Not knowing whether they had survived the ravages of warfare following the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, he set out in 1652 from his home in Suzhou and traveled over 1,400 miles in search of his parents. In his vivid published account, Huang describes the many hardships he endured before being reunited with his parents in rural Yunnan. He eventually escorted them back home, completing his round-trip journey in 558 days.

Painted three years after his return, this handscroll documents the most arduous portion of the journey, including treacherous mountain trails and the military garrisons where he faced interrogation. Impoverished, injured, and sobbing, he often had to convince armed troops that he was not a spy but was merely trying to obtain passage in search of his parents. In his inscription, he expresses the hope that the painting will "exorcise the nightmares" that still haunted him.

Searching for My Parents, Huang Xiangjian (Chinese, 1609–1673), Handscroll; ink and color on silk, China

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