Yunxi Teaching Buddhist Scripture
Share this Product
It was only among Qing court paintings that portraits of actual families as documents of personal appearance began first to appear. One of the earliest of these works is by Gu Ming (active late 17th/early 18th century). This is his only extant work. In the picture, Yunxi, the 21st son of the Kangxi emperor, is dressed in plain garments and sits casually on a stool, legs crossed, a stone table next to him with antiques objects laid out. He holds a book in one hand. Despite the title of ‘teaching Buddhist scripture’, it seems more attention is focused on the cats. Seated opposite Yunxi, on a low stone table, is his wife, also plainly dressed, holding the hand of his son in a red robe. In the foreground is an elegant young maid preparing refreshments. The little boy in red holds a peach and gestures towards two cats in the foreground, one of which also has a peach. Cats and peaches symbolise longevity. The cat (mao 猫) is a homophone for ‘age eighty to ninety’ (mao 耄), while the peaches represent the Queen Mother of the West’s Peach Garden of Immortality. When Immortals ate these special peaches, their powers of Immortality would rejuvenate. Despite the lofty aristocratic sitters, the overall scene is one of a down-to-earth, close-knit family, who placed importance on scholarship and education as well as traditional Confucian and Buddhist values, but like all ordinary people, they find distraction in cats playing.