Emperor Xuanzong's Flight to Shu

Artist: Unidentified Artist Chinese, active mid-12th century

Period: Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)

Date: mid-12th century

Culture: China

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Dimensions: Image: 44 3/4 × 32 5/8 in. (113.7 × 82.9 cm)
Overall with mounting: 95 1/2 × 54 in. (242.6 × 137.2 cm)
Overall with knobs: 57 1/2 × 95 1/2 in. (146.1 × 242.6 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1941

Accession Number: 41.138


In 745, after thirty-three years of able rule, the Tang emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–56) fell in love with the concubine Yang Guifei and became indifferent to his duties. When Yang’s favorite general, An Lushan, rebelled in 755, she was blamed. Forced to flee from the capital at Xi’an to the safety of Shu (Sichuan Province), the emperor was confronted by mutinous troops demanding the execution of his lover. Reluctantly assenting, Xuanzong looked on in horror and shame and abdicated soon after. This painting depicts the somber imperial entourage after the execution. While the accoutrements of the figures