Blue Magpie and Thorny Shrubs

Huang Chu-tsai (933-after 993)AD 960-AD 1279

National Palace Museum

National Palace Museum
Taipei, Taiwan

Huang Chu-tsai (style name Po-luan), a native of Szechwan province, was the son of the famous bird-and-flower painter Huang Chuan. He followed in his father's style of outlining forms with thin brushstrokes and then filling them with colors. The paintings by the two Huangs set the standard for artistic excellence in the painting academy of the early Song dynasty (960-1279). This work is an excellent example of the balance between action and stillness. Take, for example, the blue magpie in the lower section of the scroll. It appears to have just jumped onto the rock as it bends down to take a drink from the stream below. Despite the stillness, it suggests both the previous and future movement. The forms actually in movement, however, are the sparrows above, which fly, chirp, or gaze about. The slender bamboo, phoenix-tail bracken, and clumps of grass in the foreground extend horizontally in both directions for balance and peace. Therefore, this painting imparts a sense of ease and calm. The magnificent blue magpie extends almost from one edge of the painting to the other, with the rest of the scene filled with a large rock and slope, thorny shrubs, bamboo, grass, and sparrows arranged along a vertical axis. The weight of the composition is located in the middle of the painting, correlating to a similar practice in Northern Song landscape painting. The pattern effect of the arrangement is also decorative, which reflects the artist's awareness of the archaic and beautiful style of bird-and-flower painting practiced in the Tang dynasty (618-907).


  • Title: Blue Magpie and Thorny Shrubs
  • Creator: Huang Chu-tsai (933-after 993)
  • Date Created: AD 960-AD 1279
  • Physical Dimensions: 97 x 53.6 cm
  • Type: Hanging scroll
  • Rights: National Palace Museum
  • Medium: Ink and colors on silk
  • Dynasty: Song dynasty

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