Saturday in the Museum with Hongzhong

Image: Gu Hongzhong, Han Xizai Gives A Night Banquet, (probable reproduction of 10th century original)

To match the increasingly social nature of life as the vaccine takes hold, we highlight this painting from the Song era in China by Gu Hongzhong for our Saturday art post. The image above is a close-up of a section of a larger scroll called Han Xizai Gives A Night Banquet.  Others translate it as the The Night Revels of Han Xizai.  It is now housed in the Palace Museum in Beijing.  The larger scroll presents five scenes from the banquet. The one above depicts the host listening to a woman play the pipa.

On the interwebs it is referred to as one of the 10 most famous Chinese paintings of all time.  It is the subject of two recent books.

The story behind the painting is that the emperor was frustrated at the absenteeism of one of his senior councilors, so he commissioned a painter to spy on Han Xizai to capture the debauchery that was keeping him up late and cutting into his work during the day.  When finally confronted with evidence of his misbehavior, Han Xizai is said to have shrugged it off and continued in his ways.

The story of the painting is also rich.  The version still available is most likely a copy from a couple centuries after the original by Gu.

As we head into the hot vax summer, Han’s story can either be an inspiration or a cautionary tale.  In either case, be safe.  Also be respectful and patient with staff.


For a great meal to revel in D.C. this summer, check out our dining guide with 300 recommended restaurants.  You can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.

Give us a follow to stay up to date on dining in the District and some art postings.  We are on FB, Insta, and Twitter.  Click on the icons at the top or bottom of this page.