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Past Exhibits

Joy to the People: Wang Zhenpeng's Painting of "Regatta on Dragon Lake"
Joy to the People: Wang Zhenpeng's Painting of "Regatta on Dragon Lake"
  • Dates: 2013/04/01~2013/06/25
  • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 208

Exhibit Info

The seasonal custom whereby “each and every family celebrates Duanwu on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month” has a history in China spanning almost two millennia, with dragon boat races being the premier event of this festival, also known as the Double Fifth or Dragon Boat Festival. Many people do not realize, however, that back in the Northern Song period, the dragon boat regatta was an imperial activity actually taking place in the third lunar month.
 
The term for “dragon boat” in Chinese appeared as early as The Tale of King Mu, Son of Heaven from the Warring States period, and that for “regatta” not found until later in the Jin dynasty with Zhou Chu’s Record of Customs and then Record of Seasonal Events in Jing and Chu after that. Moreover, it was not until the Tang dynasty, with the works of such poets as Luo Binwang and Liu Yuxi, do the terms “dragon boat” and “regatta” appear together to represent the dragon boat rowing competition now associated with this festival.
 
Records indicate that in the third month of 992, third year of the Chunhua reign, the Northern Song emperor Taizong took a tour of Lake Jinming and enjoyed water festivities there designated as a regatta. Thereafter, a dragon boat regatta was held in the third month of each year, eventually becoming a custom. By the middle of the Northern Song, celebrations for the third month regatta increased to include many activities, such as swinging and puppetry on the water, making the event even more raucous. In 1147, during the following Southern Song, Meng Yuanlao, in his recollection of life from the old days at the Northern Song Eastern Capital of Bian (modern Kaifeng, Henan), left behind a detailed account of the third month regatta at Lake Jinming in his Record of Dream Splendors at the Eastern Capital.
 
In the collection of the National Palace Museum are four handscroll paintings dealing with similar subject matter and all ascribed to the master of Yuan dynasty ruled-line painting, Wang Zhenpeng (fl. ca. 1280-1329). Despite perhaps being an imitation from after the Yuan, Wang’s “Regatta on Dragon Lake” selected for this exhibition depicts regatta activities that find a close parallel with the record of old times in Record of Dream Splendors at the Eastern Capital. While admiring this handscroll painting, viewers can analyze the details of the exceptionally fine rendering and capture a tantalizing peek at the majestic sight of the dragon boat regatta once held at the Northern Song capital in the third month.
 
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