Yang Pu Moving His Family

Full Title: 
Yang Pu Moving His Family
Ink and light color on paper
52.7 cm (height) x 231.1 cm (length)
With a lively combination of realism and caricature, this painting depicts a group of peasants transporting a rustic scholar and his family across a river that appears to be swelling in course of a flood. Distinguished by his official government cap with long streamers, the otherwise disheveled, barelegged scholar bids farewell to his friends and neighbors from the water. Servants valiantly attempt to carry other children and with the family's belongings—scrolls, furniture, and dishes. His bare-chested wife sits atop a water buffalo and nurses a baby. The scholar depicted here may represent Yang Pu, a character described in stories of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). According to folklore, Yang Pu initially declined, and then reluctantly accepted, his appointment to a government position in the capital city. As Chinese law forbade civil officials to work in their native districts, many were required to move to distant cities. Painters and poets frequently depicted this theme of farewell or "noble parting" exemplified by the story of Yang Pu. The twigs that protrude from the official caps of the men depicted here may allude to the ancient Chinese custom of presenting departing friends with small branches from a willow tree.
Repository Accession Number: 
Description Source: 
Art Institute of Chicago; www.artic.edu/aic
Scrolls Project ID: 
7 140 360