hongli (1711-1799), or emperor qianlong (gaozong) of the qing dynasty, said at age of 75, “during the 50 years of my reign, i’ve totally completed two major events, one was the military marches to the west, the other was the inspection tours to the south.” “emperor qianlong’s inspection tour to the south”, which collected by national museum of china, is a large-sized handscroll depicting the historic event of emperor qianlong’s first inspection tour to the south in the 16th year of his reign (1751). xu yang, the court painter in charge of the painting project, was a native of suzhou.
when suzhou museum designed by mr. ieoh ming pei was grandly opened in the autumn of 2006, the long scroll of “suzhou’s golden age”, which was painted by xu yang and collected by liaoning provincial museum, returned to suzhou(its birthplace) for the first time, as one of the presents for the opening ceremony. now, on the occasion of the completion and opening of suzhou museum west, “stopover at gusu”, the sixth scroll of “emperor qianlong’s inspection tour to the south” by xu yang, is on display in suzhou museum west, presenting another visual feast of spring in jiangnan.
in “stopover at gusu”, the painter adopted long scroll that was typical for traditional realistic painting and used scattered perspective technique to portray different views from different perspectives. it integrated emperor qianlong’s poems and calligraphy into the painting and represented the emperor’s care for the local folk customs, officials, commons and his admiration for the southern scenery in great details. with the grand canal as the main clue, the painter continuously depicted the happy and harmonious scenes at beiwangting, hushuguang, fengqiao, huqiu, changmen and wannianqiao section by section, on the journey from xumen gate to emperor’s palace at suzhou textile bureau. the painting elaborately rendered the crisscrossed lanes and rows upon rows of houses as well as the images of the officers, commons, scholars and gentles, monks, taoist, merchants, women and children, the old and the young on the way. through realistic type of painting, the handscroll comprehensively represented the prosperity of suzhou, which was china’s most famous industrial and commercial metropolis two hundred years ago from multiple perspectives and serves as the best witness of suzhou’s history.
finally, we specially extend our gratitude for the great supports from national museum of china.