Chinese Art and Poetry

Tang painters favor the horse, depicted on route from Kokand and Ferghana (modern-day central Asian part of now defunct USSR, in Uzbekistan) to Changan, showing, in elaborate detail, saddle with stirrups. Among these painters would be the celebrated Han Gan (720-780) who, born almost a century after Wu Zhao, would study under the master Cao Ba. Han Gan would paint the famous Hundred Colts (Mu ma tu), on view in the National Palace Museum in Taipei in modern time.

Another well-known painting by Han Gan, entitled Shiny Night White (Zhao Ye Bai), depicts an animated white stallion by that name tied to a post. In the imperial collection since the eighth century, the famous painting would be illegally removed from the Forbidden Palace in 1911 by Prince Pu-ru, half brother of Henry Pu-yi, last emperor of China. The painting would end up in the private collection of Sir Percival and Lady David of London, on loan to the British Museum. After 1977, this famous painting, purchased as a Dillon Fund gift, would come to be in the permanent collection of the Douglas Dillon Galleries for Chinese Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and on view since 1981.

Han Gan's ink and color painting on silk, entitled: Groom Presenting Horses, would in modern come to be on permanent exhibit at Musee Cernuschi in Paris.

Henri Cernuschi (1821-1896), Italian political economist, fervent republican and supporter of Garibaldi, would go to France in 1850 where he would eventually become a director of the Bank of France. He would become an advocate of the use of silver as a monetary standard and would coin the word bimetallism. Cernuschi would excel as a collector of Chinese art and would make a gift of his mansion and its priceless contents to the city of Paris upon his death.

Henry C.K. Liu


As you know, I wrote the following poem which describes the feelings of a Chinese concubine, Harmonious Cloud, on being taken from Chung-tu, as Beijing then was, all the way to the Ferghana valley, where Genghis-khan was then encamped. This was in 1221 AD (my novel on this theme is published next year). Khojend is also known as the Iron Gate Pass. If you travel there from the east, you suddenly see spread over the rim of the world, Turkestan, Persia and the land of desert and oases that lies between Bukhara and Samarkand. Below you to the left is Lake Issyk-kul, a turquoise gem 60 kilometres long, and 15000 feet above sea level, embedded in white and coral mountains. This is one of the places which, as Henry says, used to be in the USSR but is now run by branch offices of the IMF and the CIA. (Harmonious Cloud became the khan's paramour and decisively altered his attitudes and intentions towards China).

I've vacationed there and it is as she describes.

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Chinese concubine's poem to Temujin

Crossing the desert I saw each red dawn,
Each sunset I saw the vast night reborn.
To come here you brought me ten