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The Ming dynasty emperor Xuanzong (1399-1435) was surnamed Zhu and had the given name Zhanji and the self-styled sobriquet Changchun zhenren ("Immortal of Everlasting Spring"). The eldest grandson of Emperor Chengzu, he was the fifth ruler of the Ming dynasty and sat on the throne from 1426 to 1435 with the reign name Xuande (being also known posthumously by his temple name Xuanzong). During his decade or so in power, he appointed virtuous and capable officials, establishing what historians have called a golden era of stable development known as the "Rule of Ren and Xuan" and making him a celebrated ruler for upholding and consolidating the Ming court. Furthermore, in terms of the arts, Emperor Xuanzong also demonstrated considerable talent, making him stand out even more conspicuously among rulers in the annals of Chinese history.

Emperor Xuanzong was quite fond of calligraphy and also gifted in the art of painting. Not only did he indulge himself in doing painting and calligraphy, attaining marvelous results in various subjects, such as landscapes, figures, animals, birds-and-flowers, and grasses-and-insects, he also frequently bestowed his works of painting and calligraphy on officials close to him. Furthermore, Xuanzong was a leader of artistic trends in his generation, setting as his goal the reestablishment of court painting to a level comparable to its heyday in the Painting Academy of the Song dynasty. According to records, when painters at court submitted works for approval, Xuanzong would scrutinize and critique each and every one, ensuring that court painting in the Ming dynasty under his reign would reach a peak that rivaled the Xuanhe Painting Academy under the most famous of artist-emperors, Huizong (1082-1135, r. 1100-1126) of the Northern Song.

In painting, Xuanzong tended to choose bird-and-flower, animal, and monochrome-ink subjects with symbolic and allegorical double meaning. As for style, he was clearly influenced by scholar painting, focusing on the expressive nature of brush lines and ink washes. His casual yet powerful calligraphy was admired by later critics as "coming from that of the Shen Brothers (Du and Can) of Huating. Not only was he capable at mellow brushwork, he also gave it vigor." Xuanzong's character forms approach those of the celebrated Yuan dynasty calligrapher Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), reflecting calligraphic trends prevalent since the early Ming. This exhibition not only features portraits of Emperor Xuanzong and works of painting and calligraphy brushed by him, it also presents related origins of his painting style as well as later imitations in his manner.