Original work of this painting attributed to Zhang Xuan (birth and death years unknown), a court painter of renown during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). There are eight horses and nine characters in the painting. How could we tell this painting is about a spring outing in that there is neither description on the environment nor indication of relationships among the characters? The answer lies in the inscriptions on the painting by later generations. There is a tradition in the appreciation of Chinese paintings that collectors and appreciators are allowed to put their own thoughts on the works they are interested in. Some of these inscriptions associated this painting with the poem Trip of Beauties by the famous Tang poet Du Fu (712-770), who described with satire an extravagant outing of the sisters of Yang Guifei, the much-beloved Imperial Consort of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (685-762). So there is a long-established opinion, at least since the reign of Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty, holding that this work depicts of a spring strip by Lady Guoguo, the third sisters of Yang Guifei. Emperor Zhangzong of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), who deemed this painting as a replica by Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty, inscribed on this work the three Chinese characters “Tian shuimo” which belongs to Emperor Huizong. But modern scholars tend to opine that this painting was actually created by a court painter. It is just that the emperor took credit for it by putting his own seal on it. Even if Emperor Huizong didn’t paint the work by himself, it is undoubted that he attached great importance to it.


  • Title: Lady Guoguo’s Spring Outing
  • Creator: Zhang Xuan
  • Date: 907
  • Provenance: Liaoning Provincial Museum
  • Physical format: painting, 52h x 148w cm
  • Medium: colors on silk
  • Dynastic period: Tang Dynasty
  • Artist's birth and death date: unknown

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