Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, From the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family Collection, Gift of Oscar L. Tang, 1991
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 213
Xia Yong carried the specialty of architectural renderings in the "ruled-line" (jiehua) manner to new heights of technical control. In contrast to his loosely described landscape elements, Xia's buildings are densely detailed and meticulously drawn. This predeliction for minute scale is also evident in the artist's microscopic inscription, which transcribes "A Rhapsody on the Yellow Pavilion," an essay by the famous Northern Song scholar Su Che (1039–1112), the younger brother of the poet Su Shi (1037–1101).
Su Che's inscription describes how the region around Xuzhou, in northern Jiangsu, was flooded in 1077, following a sudden break in the dikes of the Yellow River. Su Shi, then a prefect there, worked indefatigably to rescue the city from disaster. After the flood subsided and the city walls were repaired, the Yellow Pavilion was dedicated in his honor. Three centuries later, in 1344, the Yellow River flooded again, causing widespread destruction. By referring to a flood that occurred three centuries earlier—and concealing his real message by writing Su's text in a script so minute that few would actually have read it—Xia Yong obliquely signaled his awareness of the momentous social changes caused by the flood, which would lead to the downfall of the Yuan dynasty less than twenty years later.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (27 columns in standard script)
[An incomplete transcription of “A Rhapsody on the Yellow Pavilion (Huang Lou fu)” by Su Che (1039–1112), translation from Department records]:
Zizhan [Su Shi, 1037–1101] and his guest ascended the Yellow Tower to enjoy themselves. The guest gazed upward, and then looked down with a sigh, “Ah! During the Yuanguang reign era (134-129 B.C.) of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) the [Yellow] River collapsed the dikes at Huzi [present-day Puyang, Henan]. Turbulent water poured into Lake Juye [in Shandong] and caused the Huai and the Si Rivers to overflow, ravaging Liang [present-day Shangqiu, Henan, area] and Chu [present-day Hubei and Hunan] for over twenty years. Lower places turned into dirty swamps, while higher places became watery glades. People lived like fish and turtles; counties lost their administrative buildings. The Emperor [Wudi, r. 141–87 B.C.], after performing rituals in homage to Heaven atop Mount Tai [in Shandong], toured the east region. Feeling pity for the innocent people whose bodies drifting in water without being buried, he had the officials carry wood to fill up [the dikes]. There he built the Xuanfang Palace and composed the Song of Huzi, the sorrow of which lingered till today. Ah! This had gone through the vicissitude of a thousand years. The [Yellow] River ran east but overflowed to the south, and repeated the old scourge of the Han dynasty. [The water] encompassed the plains and the swamps into one, expecting the destruction of our city walls. A long stretch of the rugged Mount Lüliang [in Shanxi] blocked its front; four mountains linked together to circumscribe its expanse. The water whirled around instead of moving forward, circling the lone city like a sea. Aquatic creatures danced in the moat; sailboats came into view as one looked down. When the wind blew heavy, it terrified people like thundering drums. Indeed, the neglect of small but crucial places [in the dikes] led to the destruction of a whole town. Fortunately as winter arrived, the water retreated of its own accord. Drifting branches perched on tall trees; dead clams were left on once flooded ground. Hearing of the success of [the dikes] at [Lake] Chanyuan [in present-day Puyang, Henan], I wonder on whom I can depend but Heaven. At this moment, you and I in tall hats and fine clothes set the feast table. We drink to each other to the full of our spirit, as music plays and laughter ensues. How could this be fortuitous.
Zizhan said, “Those who are used to happiness do not know their happiness is happiness. They have to experience adversity in order to know it. You and I have leaned out of this tower and looked around to observe the grandeur of the universe. It walls its city with circling ranges of green mountains, and takes the long river as its sash. The field spreads out like a mat; mulberries and hemp flourish strong. Narrow paths crisscross [the field]; the yards and the cottages face forward and backward. Farmers and fishermen dot the riverbank; cattle and sheep roam the misty distance. As a fresh breeze arises, light clouds pile up. Mountains and rivers spread and converge, stretching a thousand miles in verdant lushness. Gazing east, [we see] mountains rise and fall one after another, running away with the river…. [Moonlight] penetrates the windows into the room, making people tremble with cold. It silences the din of the bustling crowds; one thus hears the sound of the vast, wavy river. Let’s dance with each other, drink volumes, forget our worries, and transcend all to ease ourselves. In addition, don’t you see those who used to live here? Earlier there were Xiang Ji (232–202 B.C.) and Liu Bei (161–223) ; later came [Li] Guangbi (708-764) and [Zhang] Jianfeng (735–800). They had groups of warhorses and legions of fierce warriors. As they raised their arms and released a long whistle, the wind blew and the clouds forms. In the red pavilions and green towers girls danced and boys sang. When their momentum slacked to a halt and their strength was exhausted, everything turned into nothing. [Still] the mountains stand tall and the water runs deep, but grass has grown over the ruins. I asked the locals of old, [and was told that] they had vanished with nothing left. Therefore I, in your company, will lament over the passing of the ancients and the flooding of the [Yellow] River in the past. Knowing that changes will never cease, let’s drink to the end of the day.”
Upon these words, the guests laugh with relief and abandoned themselves to inebriation. As the Milky Way tilts and the moon glides down, we support one another on our way out.
Wang Jiqian 王季遷 (C. C. Wang, 1907–2003) Jiqian xinshang 季遷心賞
 It is Liu Wu (d. 154 B.C.) in Su Che’s original text. Xia Yong mistook it for Liu Bei in his transcription. Liu Bei was the leader of the Shu-Han Kingdom in the Three Kingdoms period (). Liu Wu was the grandson of Liu Jiao, younger brother of Liu Bang (r. 206-195 B.C.), founder of the Han dynasty. Liu Wu was enfeoffed in Chu.
 Here Xia Yong’s transcription omits a passage from Su Che’s original text: [群石傾奔，絕流而西。百步湧波，舟楫紛披。魚鱉顛沛，沒人所嬉。聲崩震雷，城堞為危。南望則戲馬之台，巨佛之峰，巋乎特起，下窺城中，樓觀翱翔，巍峨相重。激水既平，渺莽浮空。駢洲接浦，下與淮通。西望則山斷為玦，傷心極目，麥熟喬秀，離離滿隰，飛鴻群往，白鳥孤沒，橫煙澹澹，俯見落日。北望則泗水湠漫，古汴入焉，匯為濤淵，蛟龍所蟠，古木蔽空，烏鳥號呼，賈客連檣，聯絡城隅。送夕陽之西盡，導明月之東出。金鉦湧於青嶂，陰氛為之辟易。窺人寰而直上，委餘彩於沙磧。激]