Jun Gu a Noble Horse

Gong KaiYuan dynasty,13th-14th century

Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts

Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
Osaka, Japan

This work depicts a noble horse. The excellent horse could run 4,000 kilometers a day in its youth, but the horse was neglected as it grew old. The figure of this useless old horse symbolizes the Song dynasty officials in similar circumstances. The painting is eloquent with grief over the takeover by the Mongolian-ruled Yuan dynasty, and nostalgia for the Song dynasty. This painting was later passed on to the Han tribal literati who had worked for the Yuan dynasty. Understanding the implied meaning behind the painting, these literati wrote their sympathetic feelings as colophons. The artist Gong Kai was a lower class official who lost his position and became poor after the fall of the empire. It is said that Gong Kai painted on his children’s backs, because he had no desk or chair.


  • Title: Jun Gu a Noble Horse
  • Creator: Gong Kai
  • Date Created: Yuan dynasty,13th-14th century
  • Location Created: China
  • Title(Japanese): 駿骨図
  • Physical Dimensions: w56.9 x h29.9 cm
  • Period(Japanese): 元 13-14世紀
  • Credit Line(Japanese): 阿部コレクション
  • Artist Name(Japanese): 龔開
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Abe Collection, Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
  • Medium: Ink on paper

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