Portrait of the Imperial Bodyguard Zhanyinbao

Artist: Unidentified Artist Chinese, 18th century

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

Date: dated 1760

Culture: China

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

Dimensions: Painting and inscription: 74 1/4 x 37 7/16 in. (188.6 x 95.1 cm)
Overall with mounting: 130 1/2 x 46 3/8 in. (331.5 x 117.8 cm)
Overall with knobs: 130 1/2 x 50 1/4 in. (331.5 x 127.6 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.206


Under the Manchu emperors of the Qing dynasty, portraiture again became an important court-sponsored art. This full-length depiction of an imperial bodyguard of the first rank is from a set of one hundred portraits of loyal officials and valiant warriors commissioned by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736–95) that originally hung in the Hall of Imperial Brilliance (Ziguang Ge), the pavilion in the Forbidden City where the emperor received tribute offerings and entertained foreign emissaries.

The poem inscribed in both Chinese and Manchu above the painting lauds Zhanyinbao's valor in combating nomadic rebels in the desert wastes of Central Asia:

Barehanded he rode the giant whale,
Capturing Weinuo in battle.
The bandits' heads were strung together
The length of his long lance.
With both hands he held open the declaration of war
All the way to Balikun [in Sinjiang Province].
Without [even pausing] to comb his horse's mane,
He returned and reported to his commander.