Birds and Flowers

Qian Xuan

Series: The Royal Collection of Imperial China

Detail of the handscroll

Artist: Qian Xuan
Period: Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)
Medium: Handscroll
Dimensions: 281 × 22 cm
Price: $299.95
ISBN: 978-1-4878-0185-4
(Collected by the Tianjin Museum)


Color on paper; length 38 cm, width 317 cm

The first section of this painting depicts peach blossoms and small, light-colored birds. The middle part depicts peonies, with refreshing green leaves matching the pink blossoms. The last part portrays winter plum blossoms, with new twigs protruding from the stems in a balanced way. The birds and flowers, all depicted with piercing strokes and elegant colors, are delicate and refined.


Qian Xuan (c. 1239–c. 1300) was a late-Song and early-Yuan Dynasty painter, known by several aliases, including Shunju, Yutan, the Man of Zhachuan, and the Man of Xilan. He hailed from Huzhou (present day Wuxing, Zhejiang Province). During the Jingding period of the Southern Song Dynasty, he gained his title in the official exam just as the dynasty ended. He remained loyal to the old court, living and painting in retreat. He excelled at human figures, bird and flower paintings, vegetables and fruits, and landscapes, which he painted with soft, meticulous brush strokes and elegant colors, drawing upon the scholarly “world” style of the Southern Song Dynasty for decoration. He advocated “scholarliness” in painting, in an attempt to break away from the outdated practice of Southern Song academia. He also advocated following the styles of the Northern Song, Five Dynasties, and Tang periods.