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Ten Thousand Li Along the Yangzi River

Formerly attributed to Juran (active ca. 960–995)
China, Southern Song dynasty, mid-12th to early 13th century
Handscroll; ink on silk
H x W (image): 43.5 x 1656.6 cm (17-1/8 x 652-3/16 in)
Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1911.168

One of the earliest surviving paintings to depict the full length of the Yangzi River, this long handscroll—measuring around sixteen and a half meters (54 feet)—shows a bird's-eye view of the river from its source in the Min Mountains to the Yellow Sea. Place names written in red ink allow the painting to serve as a kind of map. As with most traditional Chinese maps, south is at the top and north at the bottom; east, or downriver, is at left, while west, or upriver, is at right.

Flowing sixty-three hundred kilometers (3,780 miles) through eight Chinese provinces and ending at the port city of Shanghai, the Yangzi is among the longest and mightiest rivers on earth. Modern geographers place its source in the Central Asian plateau of Qinghai Province, while Chinese tradition considers the Min River in Sichuan Province to be its starting point. From the confluence of these two main branches in central Sichuan, the Yangzi rushes eastward to the Wu Mountains, where it surges through magnificent canyons—collectively known as the Three Gorges—on its descent to the flatlands below. The river then proceeds at a more stately pace, passing large lakes and joined by numerous tributaries, until it finally enters the sea.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Related Exhibition

Style in Chinese Landscape Painting: The Song Legacy
May 17–October 26, 2014
Freer Gallery of Art