Tao Ku Presenting a Lyric to Chin Jo-lan

Tang Yin (1470-1532)AD 1368-AD 1644

National Palace Museum

National Palace Museum
Taipei, Taiwan

Tang Yin (style name Tzu-wei, sobriquets Po-hu and Liu-ju) was a native of Wu-hsien (Soochow, Kiangsu) and is considered one of the Four Great Masters of the Ming. In painting, he studied under Chou Chen (ca. 1450-1535) and copied the works of such artists as Li Tang, Fan Kuan, Ma Yuan, and Hsia Kuei, all Song masters active from the tenth to thirteenth centuries. To this, he also assimilated the techniques of scholar landscape painting from the Four Great Masters of the Yuan. Furthermore, since he had an inherent talent for painting, he was able to surpass these forerunners and create a distinct personal style.

In the early Song (960-1279), Tao Ku (903-970) served an envoy to the small Five Dynasties kingdom of the Southern Tang. Tao was condescending in the face of the Southern Tang ruler Li Hou-chu. The Southern Tang officials, angered by his rudeness, came up with a plot; they sent the court courtesan Chin Jo-lan in the guise of the Station Officer's daughter to seduce Tao. Alone in her company and unsuspecting of her true identity, Tao Ku was overcome by her beauty and forgot his official position, indiscreetly writing a poem for her. The next day, the Southern Tang ruler gave a banquet for Tao Ku. At the banquet, Tao again assumed an air of unbending dignity and unapproachability. The ruler then summoned Chin Jo-lan to perform a song, which was the poem that Tao had written for her the day before. Tao was thereupon greatly humiliated and he lost his composure. The painting here illustrates this story.

In this fine figure painting, Tao Ku sits on a daybed. Next to him are writing materials as a torch burns in front. Chin Jo-lan, with her elaborate hairstyle, plays the pi-pa in a lifelike rendering just before he writes the poem. The tree and stone, bamboo and plantain, and potted flowers, as well as the daybed and painted screens are all painted carefully. The enclosed composition creates for an intimate setting. The coloring is elegant and the scene reserved yet lifelike. In Tang Yin's poem written in the upper right, he associates himself with the figure of Tao Ku.


  • Title: Tao Ku Presenting a Lyric to Chin Jo-lan
  • Creator: Tang Yin (1470-1532)
  • Date Created: AD 1368-AD 1644
  • Physical Dimensions: 168.8 x 102.1 cm
  • Type: Hanging scroll
  • Rights: National Palace Museum
  • Medium: Ink and colors on silk
  • Dynasty: Ming dynasty

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