Copied blog from my professor, Dr. Hayford.
Based on a presumed Song Dynasty original by Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145), this scroll painting depicts life in the Song dynasty capital, near present day Kaifeng. The scroll is roughly a foot high. The scroll has become a popular symbol of the sophistication of urban life in traditional China, demonstrating China's high level of development, attested to by Marco Polo slightly later. We see in exquisite detail -- depending on the version -- the sweep from the quiet, prosperous countryside, through the outskirts of the city (including an open air opera), bustling city life, and finally a glimpse of the imperial palace.
Although the original is now lost, we have a number of later copies, or perhaps "repaintings." The Manchu Qianlong Emperor (ruled 1736-1796) had his court painters make authoritative copies, apparently to demonstrate his benevolence, culture, and the prosperity of his realm.
Images from various versions of the scroll have been issued on postage stamps, calendars, and souvenier ash trays.
There are at least three scrollable versions available on the net:
1) A colorful, almost garish version: http://www.ibiblio.org/ulysses/gec/painting/qingming/full.htm
2) An older copy, which has useful subsections on various topics such as transportation, shops and commerce, individuals and groups, etc.:
3) One of seven versions held at the Palace Museum in Taibei, which has excellent detail but is slightly awkward to scroll. Click on the picture to enlarge, then move through using the hand tool:
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