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Boya Playing Qin Zither
Boya Playing Qin Zither
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The figure painting depicts the deep feelings between two bosom friends Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi. The story first appeared in Mister Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals (Lüshi chunqiu), a representative work of the Eclectics at the end of the Warring States period over 2,000 years ago. Five persons are portrayed in this painting: with fine features and long beard, Boya on the left of the painting sits up straight on a rock and has his robe unfastened. He is playing qin zither (a seven-stringed plucked instrument). Facing Boya, Ziqi in long robe also sits on a rock. He lowers his head and carefully listens to the music. Behind them stand three servant boys. The outer features and inner worlds of the two main figures are portrayed with vivid and exact strokes so that the absorption of the player and the entrancement of the listener show forth in the painting. In order to set off the two main figures, the painter also arranged two servant boys and used their reactions to express the understanding friendship between Boya and Ziqi transmitted via the sound of Qin. This painting reaches a high level in the description of psychological activities. In the aspect of painting technique, the painter Wang Zhenpeng inherited the line drawing method of Song (960-1279) master Li Gonglin (ca. 1041-1106) very well. Forceful and elastic, the continuous lines have various changes: light and heavy, thick and thin, slow and fast, pausing and transitional. Parts of the clothing and headgear are washed with light ink while rocks are slightly textured. These rich and simple techniques of expression make the painting varied, implicit and bright.

History of the Object
The rightmost part of the painting is missing. The seals on the painting reveal that it was once in the collection of Xianggelaji, the Eldest Princess of the Lu State and elder sister of the Yuan Dynasty Emperor Renzong (r. 1312-1320). In the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it belonged to Liang Qingbiao, a famous Qing collector. In the Qianlong period, it entered the Imperial palace and was recorded in the first edition of The Precious Collection of the Stone Moat: the First Edition (Shiqu baoji chubian).

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Type
Painting 
Materials
Ink on silk 
Measurements
31.4 × 92 cm 
Creator name
Wang Zhenpeng 
Creator date
fl. ca. 1280-ca. 1329 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 14th century ~ AD 14th century 
Creation date
14th Century 
Function
Painting 
Acquisition
In the Qianlong period (1711-1799), the painting entered the Imperial Palace and was recorded in the Qing Imperial catalogue: The Precious Collections of the Stone Moat: the first edition. It was re-acquired in 1958. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Palace Museum, Beijing 
Museum
The Palace Museum 
Credit line
Palace Museum, Beijing 

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