The Portland Classical Chinese Garden

Between NW 2nd and 3rd and NW Everett and Flanders in Old Town/Chinatown, Portland Oregon, USA

Colorful Lanterns at Shangyuan

Currently on display in the Garden’s Boat Pavilion is a digitally enhanced replica of the eight foot hand scroll, Colorful Lanterns at Shangyuan.  The scroll was painted by an anonymous painter of the Ming Dynasty and depicts a street in Nanjing on the occasion of the Lantern Festival.  The Shangyuan or Lantern Festival depicted completes the New Year festivities, with lanterns lighting the way for their ancestors to return after visiting their living family.  The lanterns are objects of beauty and wonder, rich with meaning.  The scroll depicts gentleman scholars and the precious objects they collect, including books and many garden objects such as: plants, penjing, rocks and landscape paintings.  This scroll is truly a window into Ming culture in Nanjing, which, together with Suzhou, was one of the leading urban centers of the time.

The scroll will be displayed through March in generous partnership with the University of Oregon.  Project manager, research and concept: Ina Asim, History Department, University of Oregon; Concept and design: Garron Hale, Social Science Instructional Laboratory, University of Oregon.  Slides and photographs of the original painting were provided by the owner, Jeff Cheng-fu Hsu, Guanxiang Art Gallery, Taibei, Taiwan.  Copyright © 2004 – 2005 University of Oregon.  All Rights Reserved.

The scroll Colorful Lanterns at Shangyuan was painted by an anonymous painter of the Ming Dynasty and depicts a street in Nanjing on the occasion of the Lantern Festival.  The Shangyuan or Lantern Festival depicted completes the New Year festivities, with lanterns lighting the way for their ancestors to return after visiting their living family.  The lanterns are objects of beauty and wonder, rich with meaning.  The scroll depicts gentleman scholars and the precious objects they collect, including books and many garden objects such as: plants, penjing, rocks and landscape paintings.  This scroll is truly a window into Ming culture in Nanjing, which, together with Suzhou, was one of the leading urban centers of the time.  It depicts people of all ages and classes in period clothing engaged in a myriad of activities from that time.

The chief researcher of the scroll, Ina Asim, from the University of Oregon, notes:

“In Ming Nanjing the festival was accompanied by activities that were designed to delight everybody.  In the painting, we find scholar-officials and wealthy citizens who meet in restaurants for tea, wine, food and female company.  Others stroll across the market where they indulge in their passion for collecting.  Books, painting, musical instruments, furniture for the house, potted landscapes for the studio or garden, and animals for the park are for sale in the market.  The painting shows all the ‘must have’ items described in the manuals of taste and style popular today… There are wrestlers and fortune tellers, toy vendors and servants leading horses through the street.  This painting documents the enjoyments of the festival in amore lively way than any other medium…”

If the scholar official of Portland’s Classical Chinese Garden were to collect a period scroll, this would be the crowning gem in his collection.  The scroll Colorful Lanterns at Shangyuan is sure to inspire the young with its fanciful colors and the young at heart with the brilliant detail it provides about Ming culture and the Lantern Festival.  Interest patrons should attend March’s lectures by Ina Asim and Ken Hammond for further details.