Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies(The Admonitions Scroll)

Gu Kaizhi (attributed)Tang Dynasty Copy

China Modern Contemporary Art Document

China Modern Contemporary Art Document
Beijing, China

The original work of The Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies is attributed to GuKaizhi (ca. 345-406). But what we can see today is the Tang replica as the original has been lost unfortunately. The admonition texts on this painting indicate that it is based on the prose of the same name with the painting, written by Zhang Hua (232-300) of Western Jin Dynasty (266-316) during a time when the central regime was manipulated by Empress Jia Nanfeng who stirred civil wars among princes and warlords, leading to social turmoil. The author would like to satire the manipulative female tyrant by eulogizing noble ladies with virtue and loyalty in previous dynasties. The resort to visual means to give grave admonitions has turned serious texts into pleasant sensory experience. For example, in order to visually explain the admonition “all of us feel the need to adorn our appearances but unaware of the urgency to improve our morality,” the painter created a beautiful noble lady putting on make-ups in front of a mirror. But the adverse effect is that when enjoying this painting, the viewers would concentrate on the pretty face reflected on the mirror instead of the admonition “morality deserves more attention than beauty.”


  • Title: Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies(The Admonitions Scroll)
  • Creator: Gu Kaizhi (attributed)
  • Date: Tang Dynasty Copy
  • Provenance: The British Museum
  • Physical format: painting, 24.8h x 348.2w cm
  • Medium: colors on silk
  • Dynastic period: Eastern Jin Dynasty
  • Artist's birth and death date: 348-409

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