Ears by the Other Side of the Wall in Beijing Customs

Chen Shizeng1915

China Modern Contemporary Art Document

China Modern Contemporary Art Document
Beijing, China

Chen Shiceng (1876-1923), born in a family of scholars, studied in Japan and majored in natural history during his early years. Since 1913, he began to settle in Beijing. He initiated and participated in almost all important calligraphy societies and activities in Beijing, and was recognized as the leader of Beijing art circle and an important representative of reformed literati paintings after Wu Changshuo.
Beijing Customs album was created when Chen had just arrived in Beijing. There are a total of 34 pictures, all of which show life of people from all walks and unique folk customs in Beijing of early Republic of China. The album is a caricature and closely related to politics. This painting Ears by the Other Side of the Wall belongs to the latter category which is Beijing unique folk customs. In the picture, before two closed doors, there stand two persons; judging from the signboard reads "before rain" hung on the left side of the doors, we could deduce that it should be a teahouse. The two persons look weird, especially the person on the left wearing a cap who is stretching his neck and leaning his ears on the door trying to eavesdrop. The postscript writes: there is a notice saying "do not talk about politics" stick on the wall of Beijing teahouses, in case that the customers' rumors may affect the teahouse. Chen Shiceng created this painting to satire warlords who were in power in early Republic of China and restricted people’s freedom of speech. The painter adopted concise and vivid painting skill to incisively depict the insidious spies, making audience amazed.


  • Title: Ears by the Other Side of the Wall in Beijing Customs
  • Creator: Chen Shiceng
  • Date: 1915
  • Provenance: National Art Museum of China
  • Physical format: painting, 28.6h x 36.4w cm
  • Medium: ink and colors on paper
  • Artist's birth and death date: 1876-1923

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