This is a series of meticulous style paintings on silk depicting significant social life events of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty. In August of the third year of his reign (1725), after the renovation of Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace), Emperor Yongzheng often lived in the Old Summer Palace and handled his official duties there.
The 12 paintings are arranged in the order of the 12 months of the Chinese calendar year, they are separately titled as “January Lantern Festival”, “February Outing”, “March Peach Blossoms”, “April Wine Tasting & Poem Festival”, “May Dragon Boat Racing”, “June Lotus Viewing”, “July Double Seven Day”, “August Moon Festival”, “September Chrysanthemum Appreciation”, “October Portrait”, “November Meditation” and “December Snow Festival”.
Chinese style gardens and architectures juxtaposed with Western style pavilions and buildings in these masterful paintings. Landscapes, architectural elements and human figures were all seamlessly integrated, preserving precious historical records of the golden days of Yuanmingyuan.
Grand and spacious, the layered composition of each painting offered in-depth panoramic view of Yunmingyuan, with different elements and activities threaded together by lakes and waterways. Intense, bright colors and cool, subdued tones were both applied in the paintings, complementing and balancing each other, making the paintings striking and elegant at the same time.
Dressed in Chinese style clothing, Yongzheng showed off his Chinese scholarly pursuits, i.e. playing the Chinese zither instrument at the poem festival – his cultivated image of “high mountain and flowing water”, expressed his appreciation of noble hearts and minds.
Zen philosophical views and aesthetics were also revealed in these paintings. A graceful, peaceful and happy ambience could be felt throughout the paintings. 300 years later, we could still marvel at the beauty and serenity of Yongzheng’s world.