n 1684, the Kangxi Emperor, served by an entourage of several hundred people, visited Jinshan Temple. Beholding the expansive, powerful vista that extended before him, Kangxi wrote the four-character phrase “Jiangtian Yilan” (“Embrace the Horizon”) to describe what he saw: a view of water and the sky separated by just one line. This would go down in history as a fabled highlight of the first of his six imperial tours to Southern China. After his second Southern Tour in 1689, the Kangxi Emperor commissioned Wang Hui (1632-1717), an important landscape painter from the South, to oversee the creation of The Kangxi Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour, which details the famous journey that spanned more than three months and covered more than 2700 miles from Beijing to Jiangnan. The Qing ruler did so as an expression of his appreciation of Southern Han Chinese culture to the wider population, making the commissioning of this piece somewhat of a political move. Such a task called for a true master with the skill to capture a complex journey spanning thousands of miles within the confines of a painting. The project took Wang Hui six months to complete, with altogether twelve scrolls, each measuring at least fourteen metres long, depicting the emperor’s favourite scenery, sights, and local customs during the tour.
The Qing Wonder Reunited for the First Time in Over a Century
For the past three decades, modern scholars believed that nine of the twelve scrolls were preserved in museum collections, while two had yet to be found, and that only a section of Scroll VI: From the Town of Benniu to the City of Changzhou on the Grand Canal was in the Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Paintings, and on loan to the Phoenix Art Museum. The actual content of Scroll VI had remained unknown. However, based on the qijuzhu (imperial diary of activities) format of court records and the Qianlong Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, scholars deduced that Scroll VI is likely to cover the journey from crossing the Yangzi River through to Changzhou Prefecture, spanning approximately 150km over three days.
The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll VI
1) Heritage of the Brush: The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting, Phoenix Art Museum, 18th March – 7th May, 1989; Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, Northwestern University, 8th March – 22nd April, 1990; Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, 28th September –24th November, 1991; Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 25th October – 27th December, 1992; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, 18th April – 20th June, 1993; Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 29th January – 20th March, 1994; Crocker Art Museum, California, 30th October – 31st December, 1997; Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 31st January – 28th March 28, 1999; Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, 3rd October – 10th December, 2000
2) Le Parfum de l'encre: Peintures Chinoises de la Collection Roy et Marilyn Papp, Musée Cernuschi, 23rd September – 30th December, 1999
3) Lyrical Traditions: Four Centuries of Chinese Paintings from the Papp Collection, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, 22nd June – 7th October, 2007
4) Intimate Escapes: Navigating Social Currents in Ming-Qing China, Phoenix Art Museum, Summer 2009
1) Heritage of the Brush: The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting, Phoenix Art Museum, 1989, cat. 18, pp. 68-69
2) Maxwell K. Hearn, The Kangxi Southern Inspection Tour: A Narrative Program by Wang Hui (Doctoral dissertation), Princeton University, 1990, pl. 5 and pp. 111-114
3) Claudia Brown, "Heritage of the Brush: The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting", in Orientations, vol. 22, no. 9, September 1991, fig. 7, p. 79
4) Le Parfum de l'encre: Peintures Chinoises de la Collection Roy et Marilyn Papp, Musée Cernuschi, 1999, cat. 19, pp. 74-75
5) Maxwell Hearn, Wen Fong, Chin-sung Chang, Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632-1717), New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008, pp. 136-137
6) Claudia Brown, Great Qing: Painting in China, 1644-1911, University of Washington Press, 2014, fig. 2.3, pp. 38
7) Claudia Brown, Melissa Button and Mark Pomilio (Eds.), Inverse Conversations: Tradition RE/formed, Phoenix Art Museum, 2015, p. 62
In 2010, the section covering Jiaoshan, Guazhou and Jinshan in Scroll VI appeared in a Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale. Along with the titleslip and the protective wrapping, the section was successfully acquired by the Jinmotang Calligraphy Research Foundation, who then embarked on a search of almost a decade for the rest of Scroll VI. Alongside other portraits of deceased Qing dynasty emperors and imperial seals, The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour (in which Kangxi was depicted) had been kept at Shouhuangdian in Jingshan for more than 200 years until 1900, the twenty-sixth year of the Guangxu reign. By repute, during the Gengzi Incident, Scroll VI was removed from Shouhuangdian by a French general posted in Beijing in the late 19th century, who took it with him when he left China and stored it in his Bordeaux home until 1939 when he passed away. In the general’s will, part of the scroll was already cut and mounted all along on the partition of his dining room, and the rest of the silk scroll was bequeathed to his successors in three parts. Since then, Scroll VI had been split apart and was later further divided into seven parts of varying lengths. With time and great effort, Jinmotang managed to locate the first six continuous sections, while the seventh part (From the Town of Benniu to the City of Changzhou on the Grand Canal) appeared in the Sotheby’s New York 2016 single-owner sale of the Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Paintings. The seventh part was acquired by another collector, a testament to the great appeal of this masterpiece among knowledgeable collectors.
The Kangxi Emperor Scroll | In Conversation with Phoenix Art Museum Prof. Claudia Brown
Sotheby’s Hong Kong is deeply honoured to have the support of both Jinmotang and our client who successfully acquired the seventh sections, so that all seven sections of this masterpiece can be reunified to become once again a complete scroll. It is truly a momentous occasion.