Emperor Huizong (attributed to), Gardenia and Lichee with Birds, a handscroll painting

Song dynasty, 12th-14th century AD

This realistic painting depicts birds amid clusters of lichee fruits, white gardenias and leaves of deep green. It has been painted in the mogu ('boneless') style where colours were used without outlines. It has been attributed to Emperor Huizong (reigned AD 1101-25) of the Northern Song dynasty, from his customary signature, Yubi yiren ('The Sovereign of the Imperial Brush'), at the end of the scroll.

Although it is unlikely that Huizong painted this fine work, it is a type of bird and flower painting which is associated with him. As a Daoist, Huizong saw his paintings as the representation of a perfect and harmonious world. His careful rendering of each element and skilful balance of form and void are characteristics which influenced the academic style of the Song dynasty.

Emperor Huizong was a great patron of the arts who preferred artistic pursuits to the affairs of state. Other than his skill as a painter, he is remembered for having reorganized the imperial painting academy and inventing a fine and elegant style of calligraphy known as shoujin ('slender gold').

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More information


J. Chou and C. Brown, The elegant brush: chinese pai (Phoenix Art Museum, 1985)

J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

A. Farrer, The brush dances and the ink s (Hayward Gallery, London, 1990)


Height: 26.000 cm
Width: 281.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1926.4-10.01 (Add. 32)


Gift of Mrs. W. Bateson


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