The Charming Court Lady Painting

Throughout history, painters have never tired of featuring beautiful and tender female figures as the main subject in their work. Among ancient Chinese court paintings, there is a sort of painting with noble women as the theme, called "court lady paintings". These paintings often provide information unavailable from written texts. Many paintings are especially interesting to historians because they help us understand what life looked like in the earlier periods of the imperial palace.

The ancient Chinese court lady painting genre boomed during the Tang Dynasty. There is a painting of the Tang Dynasty in the Liaoning Provincial Museum, "Ladies with Head-pinned Flowers" painted by Zhou Fang, a painter of the imperial court. It depicts the leisurely and carefree life of court ladies in the Tang Dynasty–the five ladies wearing magnificent clothes with a maid, strolling in the flower garden.

"Spring Morning in the Han Palace", a work of the famous Ming painter Qiu Ying held in the Taipei Palace Museum, shows the lively and busy everyday scene of concubines in the imperial harem. Under the painting brush of Qiu Ying, there are also elegant mannered noble ladies apart from those graceful female figures in the "Spring Morning in the Han Palace". In the painting "Two Ladies and Bamboo" in Shanghai Museum, two ladies stand beside towering bamboo, they have beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye. Their virtuous characters and manners are simply released from their quietly elegant clothes and comely appearance.

Besides showing the delicate charm of the beauties, there are many paintings that capture the emotion of them, such as the "Cai Wenji Returns to Han" in the Taipei Palace Museum painted by Chen Juzhong, a painter of Southern Song Dynasty, which describes a sad parting scene. On the open wild field, a red-dress envoy leads the troop to get prepared for a long journey, while a man is pouring wine for his wife, two little children are leaning close to their mother, and all the people around are moved by this mournful separation. The woman in this painting is Cai Wenji, the famous female poet and composer from the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Charming, lively and staunch, all the female figures on these paintings give us a chance to get closer to the different types of Chinese ancient beauties. These court lady paintings witnessed together are truly a precious historical resource for us to treasure.