The Grandeur of the Qing | Asia for Educators

II. Lesson Plans

How to Read a Chinese Hand Scroll:
the Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour

Christine Naitove, The Chapin School, New York, New York


One of the most characteristic and original Chinese art forms is the painted hand scroll. It dates back to at least the Period of Disunity (4th C. C.E.) and achieved a high level of sophistication in the Tang and Song Dynasties (618 – 906 and 960 – 1279, respectively). Landscape was the pre-eminent subject of these scrolls. Tang and Song landscape painters evolved an artistic vocabulary that was venerated by later artists, such as the Orthodox School of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). Wang Hui, the most celebrated artist of his day, was an Orthodox painter who was selected by the Qing Kangxi Emperor (1654 – 1722) to document his second Southern Inspection Tour of 1689. Wang Hui and his assistants recorded that tour in a set of 12 scrolls, two of which (Scrolls III and VII) are accessible in interactive images at: