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Exhibitions/ Art Object

元 夏永 黃樓圖 冊頁
The Yellow Pavilion

Xia Yong (Chinese, active mid-14th century)
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
ca. 1350
Album leaf; ink on silk
Image: 8 1/8 x 10 1/2 in. (20.6 x 26.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, From the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family Collection, Gift of Oscar L. Tang, 1991
Accession Number:
Not on view
Xia Yong carried the specialty of architectural renderings in the "ruled-line" (jiehua) manner to new heights of technical control. In contrast to his loosely described landscape elements, Xia's buildings are densely detailed and meticulously drawn. This predeliction for minute scale is also evident in the artist's microscopic inscription, which transcribes "A Rhapsody on the Yellow Pavilion," an essay by the famous Northern Song scholar Su Che (1039–1112), the younger brother of the poet Su Shi (1037–1101).

Su Che's inscription describes how the region around Xuzhou, in northern Jiangsu, was flooded in 1077, following a sudden break in the dikes of the Yellow River. Su Shi, then a prefect there, worked indefatigably to rescue the city from disaster. After the flood subsided and the city walls were repaired, the Yellow Pavilion was dedicated in his honor. Three centuries later, in 1344, the Yellow River flooded again, causing widespread destruction. By referring to a flood that occurred three centuries earlier—and concealing his real message by writing Su's text in a script so minute that few would actually have read it—Xia Yong obliquely signaled his awareness of the momentous social changes caused by the flood, which would lead to the downfall of the Yuan dynasty less than twenty years later.
#7604. The Yellow Pavilion
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Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (27 columns in standard script)

[An incomplete transcription of “A Rhapsody on the Yellow Pavilion (Huang Lou fu)” by Su Che (1039–1112), translation from Department records]:

Zizhan [Su Shi, 1037–1101] and his guest ascended the Yellow Tower to enjoy themselves. The guest gazed upward, and then looked down with a sigh, “Ah! During the Yuanguang reign era (134-129 B.C.) of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) the [Yellow] River collapsed the dikes at Huzi [present-day Puyang, Henan]. Turbulent water poured into Lake Juye [in Shandong] and caused the Huai and the Si Rivers to overflow, ravaging Liang [present-day Shangqiu, Henan, area] and Chu [present-day Hubei and Hunan] for over twenty years. Lower places turned into dirty swamps, while higher places became watery glades. People lived like fish and turtles; counties lost their administrative buildings. The Emperor [Wudi, r. 141–87 B.C.], after performing rituals in homage to Heaven atop Mount Tai [in Shandong], toured the east region. Feeling pity for the innocent people whose bodies drifting in water without being buried, he had the officials carry wood to fill up [the dikes]. There he built the Xuanfang Palace and composed the Song of Huzi, the sorrow of which lingered till today. Ah! This had gone through the vicissitude of a thousand years. The [Yellow] River ran east but overflowed to the south, and repeated the old scourge of the Han dynasty. [The water] encompassed the plains and the swamps into one, expecting the destruction of our city walls. A long stretch of the rugged Mount Lüliang [in Shanxi] blocked its front; four mountains linked together to circumscribe its expanse. The water whirled around instead of moving forward, circling the lone city like a sea. Aquatic creatures danced in the moat; sailboats came into view as one looked down. When the wind blew heavy, it terrified people like thundering drums. Indeed, the neglect of small but crucial places [in the dikes] led to the destruction of a whole town. Fortunately as winter arrived, the water retreated of its own accord. Drifting branches perched on tall trees; dead clams were left on once flooded ground. Hearing of the success of [the dikes] at [Lake] Chanyuan [in present-day Puyang, Henan], I wonder on whom I can depend but Heaven. At this moment, you and I in tall hats and fine clothes set the feast table. We drink to each other to the full of our spirit, as music plays and laughter ensues. How could this be fortuitous.

Zizhan said, “Those who are used to happiness do not know their happiness is happiness. They have to experience adversity in order to know it. You and I have leaned out of this tower and looked around to observe the grandeur of the universe. It walls its city with circling ranges of green mountains, and takes the long river as its sash. The field spreads out like a mat; mulberries and hemp flourish strong. Narrow paths crisscross [the field]; the yards and the cottages face forward and backward. Farmers and fishermen dot the riverbank; cattle and sheep roam the misty distance. As a fresh breeze arises, light clouds pile up. Mountains and rivers spread and converge, stretching a thousand miles in verdant lushness. Gazing east, [we see] mountains rise and fall one after another, running away with the river…. [Moonlight] penetrates the windows into the room, making people tremble with cold. It silences the din of the bustling crowds; one thus hears the sound of the vast, wavy river. Let’s dance with each other, drink volumes, forget our worries, and transcend all to ease ourselves. In addition, don’t you see those who used to live here? Earlier there were Xiang Ji (232–202 B.C.) and Liu Bei (161–223)[1] ; later came [Li] Guangbi (708-764) and [Zhang] Jianfeng (735–800). They had groups of warhorses and legions of fierce warriors. As they raised their arms and released a long whistle, the wind blew and the clouds forms. In the red pavilions and green towers girls danced and boys sang. When their momentum slacked to a halt and their strength was exhausted, everything turned into nothing. [Still] the mountains stand tall and the water runs deep, but grass has grown over the ruins. I asked the locals of old, [and was told that] they had vanished with nothing left. Therefore I, in your company, will lament over the passing of the ancients and the flooding of the [Yellow] River in the past. Knowing that changes will never cease, let’s drink to the end of the day.”

Upon these words, the guests laugh with relief and abandoned themselves to inebriation. As the Milky Way tilts and the moon glides down, we support one another on our way out.

子瞻與客遊於黃樓之上,客仰而望俯而嘆曰:“噫嘻!殆哉!在漢元光,河決瓠子, 腾蹙钜野,衍溢淮泗,梁楚受害二十餘歲。下者為污澤,上者為沮洳。民為魚鱉,郡縣無所。天子封祀太山,徜徉東方,哀民之無辜,流死不藏,使公卿負薪,以塞宣房。瓠子之歌,至今傷之。嗟惟此邦,俯仰千載,河東傾而南洩,蹈漢世之遺害。包原隰而為一,窺吾墉之摧敗。呂梁齟齬,橫絕乎其前,四山連屬,合圍乎其外。水洄洑而不盡[進],環孤城以為海。舞魚龍於隍壑,閱帆檣於睥睨。方飄風之迅發,震鞞鼓之驚駭。誠蟻穴之不救,分閭閻之橫潰。幸冬日之既迫,水泉縮而[以]自退。棲流憐於喬木,遺枯蚌于水裔。聽澶淵之功,非天意吾誰賴。今我與公,冠冕裳衣,設幾几布筵,鬥酒相屬,飲酣作樂[樂作],開口而笑,夫豈偶然也哉?”子瞻曰:“今夫安於樂者,不知樂之為樂也,必涉於害者而後知之。吾嘗與子憑茲樓而四顧,覽天宇之宏大,繚青山以為城,引長河而為帶。平皋衍其如席,桑麻蔚乎斾斾。畫阡陌之縱橫,分園廬之向背。放田漁於江浦,散牛羊於煙際。清風時起,微雲霮□ 。山川開闔,蒼莽千里。東望則連山參差,與水皆馳。 [2]飛楹而入戶,使人體寒而戰慄。息洶洶於群動,聽川流之蕩潏。可以起舞相命,一飲千石,遺弃憂患,超然自得。且子獨不見夫昔之居此者乎?前則項籍、劉備[戊],後則光弼、建封。戰馬成群,猛士如[成]林。振臂長嘯,風動雲興。朱閣青樓,舞女歌童。勢窮力竭,化為虛空。山高水深,草生故墟。蓋將問其遺老,既次[已]灰滅而無餘矣。故吾將與子吊古人之既逝,閔河決於疇昔。知變化之無在,付杯酒以終日。”於是眾客釋然而笑,頹然而[就]醉,河傾月墮,扶擕而出。

Artist’s seal

Xia Mingyuan yin 夏明遠印

Collector’s seal

Wang Jiqian 王季遷 (C. C. Wang, 1907–2003)
Jiqian xinshang 季遷心賞

[2] It is Liu Wu (d. 154 B.C.) in Su Che’s original text. Xia Yong mistook it for Liu Bei in his transcription. Liu Bei was the leader of the Shu-Han Kingdom in the Three Kingdoms period (). Liu Wu was the grandson of Liu Jiao, younger brother of Liu Bang (r. 206-195 B.C.), founder of the Han dynasty. Liu Wu was enfeoffed in Chu.

[2] Here Xia Yong’s transcription omits a passage from Su Che’s original text:
Oscar L. Tang , New York (until 1991; donated to MMA)
Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," April 2, 1996–July 7, 1996.

Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," August 3, 1996–November 10, 1996.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Artist as Collector: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the C.C.Wang Family Collection," September 2, 1999–January 9, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings," March 1, 2008–August 10, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change," August 21, 2010–January 9, 2011.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats," August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection II," May 7, 2016–October 11, 2016.

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