Silk painting from over 2,000 years ago an example of early Chinese portraiture

Updated: Aug 15, 2023 Print
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The silk painting of a man riding a dragon, Warring States Period, from the collection of the Hunan Museum [Photo/Official website of the Hunan Museum]

Here is a silk painting dating back to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). In the middle of the painting a man wearing a high headdress, a loose robe and adorned with a sword is depicted standing on a dragon. A canopy is over the man’s head. A crane stands on the dragon’s tail and a carp is beside the dragon. The smooth lines vividly portray details of the figure’s expression and the dragon’s action of striding ahead.

Unearthed from a tomb in Changsha in 1973, the silk painting is a banner used to guide the soul of the deceased to heaven. An excellent representative of early Chinese portrait painting, it is in the permanent collection of the Hunan Museum.

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