Chinese landscapes at the British Museum

wintry trees

The British Museum is currently showing a fine selection of Chinese paintings, predominantly landscapes because the unifying theme is geographical – scenes from Jiangnan, the area of south-east China through which the Yangzi River travels.

Paintings from different epochs hang side by side, but the explanatory material is very helpful in drawing out the links between different works and artists – important in a field such as Chinese painting where tradition means so much.

For instance, Wintry Trees by Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), described as the most prominent member of the Wu School of amateur painters.  Then Reading in the Autumn Mountains by Xiang Shengmo (1597-1658), who adopted the Wu School manner and was inspired by Wen Zhengming.

The absolute pièce de résistance here was the Admonitions Scroll, a world-famous 4th century handscroll attributed to Gu Kaizhi, and rarely on show due to its fragility.  Clapping eyes on the real thing was a wonderful moment.

Gems of Chinese painting: a voyage along the Yangzi river
British Museum, London
3 April to 31 August 2014

Admonitions Scroll on view from 5 June to 16 July only.

Above: Wen Zhengming, Wintry Trees. Hanging scroll; ink and light colours on paper. Ming Dynasty (1368-1664). British Museum, at

Below: Xiang Shengmo, Reading in the Autumn Mountains. Ming Dynasty (1368-1664), 1623. British Museum, at

reading in the autumn mountains