By Gu Xiu Zhai —— dancer on the tip of needle
Tea Party at Tang Court. Court ladies sit around a square table, enjoying music while sipping tea. A maid stands beside the table, gently swaying a round fan. Among these ladies, some are tasting tea, some others are playing wine games, while the four in middle are playing instruments, namely, bili (筚篥), pipa (琶琶), guzheng (古筝) and sheng (笙), from right to left, to add to the fun.
And opposite to this lady is the one enjoying the tea intently, even the maid behind her rushes to hold her arm in case the lady gets intoxicated.
All the women in this work have been portrayed in a faithful lifelike fashion, ending up with various but equally vivid expressions and gestures. The color palette is beautiful and gentle, created by meticulous multi-layer coloring on the rouge-applied cheeks of the ladies, their vermilion dresses, decorative shawls, etc. Even the varied details of ornamental patterns on the garments are clearly seen thanks to the ingenious coloring technique. These curvaceous ladies in sumptuous attire are so vivid that they seem to have brought the viewers to the tea party back in the Tang court.
Imperial Maids of the State of Shu. The original painting was based on the court life of Meng Chang (919-965 AD), the sovereign of the State of the Later Shu in the Five Dynasties and Ten States period (907-960 AD). There are four palace performers in this image, busy dressing up for the upcoming performance for the sovereign. Fitted out in full costumes, they have dunned flower-shaped garlands and gold or silver hairpins. One of them is looking at the mirror to check her attire; one of the others is holding the rouge plate and allowing another to help her with the makeup and the rest one seems to be giving instructions to the three by waving her hands.
Monkey Serving Goddess of Mercury. As one of the five planets worshipped by the ancient Chinese, Mercury has been represented by the image of beautiful females in the Chinese culture. The Chinese believe that Mercury falls into the category of yin, which symbolizes the female based on the conceptions of yin and yang.
Immortals Celebrating Birthday. This work portrays the scene of immortals coming from all directions to the Heavenly Palace to celebrate the birthday of the Queen Mother of the West, known as the Queen of Heaven in Chinese mythology, on March 3rd of Chinese lunar calendar. The magnificence of the grand scene is illustrated by dividing characters mainly into groups from three directions, namely, the sky, the land and the sea.
Plum Blossoms and Chinese Bulbuls. What occupies the center of the image is a bent branch of a plum blossom tree, on which perches a pair of Chinese bulbuls, leaning against each other. Several yellow plum blossoms are blooming, seemingly to be exuding refreshing and soothing fragrance. Such a daily scene reproduced through meticulous and refined work conveys the pleasure of daily life.