late Ming (1368–1644) or early Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Album of twelve leaves; ink on paper
Image (each): 10 1/4 x 12 3/8 in. (26 x 31.5 cm)
Lent by The Chih Lo Lou Collection, Hong Kong
Not on view
In this album, Huang Xiangjian imaginatively recreates scenes from his perilous journey through southwest China in search of his parents, with whom he had lost contact following the Manchu conquest in the mid-1640s. In one of the most celebrated acts of filial piety in history, he set out in 1652 from his home in Suzhou and returned with them after one and a half years, covering more than 1,400 miles in the round-trip journey.
Travel-related imagery had been a feature of Suzhou painting since the late fifteenth century. Huang created several works to document his grueling experience in both the handscroll and album formats. The paintings illustrate actual sites across the spectacular but treacherous terrains through which he struggled. On each leaf, he inscribes a short text about the topography, history, and customs of the depicted site. Huang’s dramatically exaggerated scenery may nonetheless be based on preliminary sketches recording his direct observations. His brush methods and compositional devices, though quite independent of established conventions, eloquently articulate the wonders and perils of nature.