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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 1. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

This handscroll presents a very rare subject in China’s court painting history. It measures nearly twenty metres in length and provides a selective pictorial catalogue of antique items from the imperial collection, possibly documenting the contents of specific palace rooms.

Nearly 250 assorted ceramics, jades, bronzes and other materials ranging in date from the Neolithic to about AD 1728 are arranged for variety of date, media and size. Most are shown on bespoke hardwood (zitan), silk-covered or stained ivory stands, and some with specially made covers. At the end is an unoccupied imperial throne which serves as reminder of the Yongzheng (r. AD 1723–35) emperor’s presence and of his enjoyment of objects from the past.

The painting bears a label attesting that it is scroll 6 from a series of unknown size. Only one other similar scroll is known and it is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, dated AD 1729 and labelled 下(xia ‘bottom’) and number 8. This could suggest there were three parts to number 8 or just two. The numbering of two scrolls from different series suggests there were at least 14 scrolls and if all illustrated the same number of objects about 3,500 items could have been recorded altogether.

The objects are depicted in such detail that actual physical models have been identified. For example, one Ru-ware bowl pictured on this scroll matches perfectly the bowl in case 52 but without the inscription. The anonymous artists’ style employs elements such as shading and perspective adopted from European painting conventions but sits firmly within Qing court traditions.

Exhibited2009 20 Apr- , The British Museum, Room 95. End of scroll displayed. Section measures 134.5cm from end of silk to end of section on display. Showing throne, crackle glazed Ru ware bowl and half of Ox with rider.

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© Trustees of the British Museum

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© Trustees of the British Museum

NoteLady David gave this scroll to the Percival David Foundation in 1985.

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 2. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 3. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 4. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 5. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 6. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 7. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 8. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 9. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 10. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 11. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 12. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 13. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 14. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 15. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 16. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 17. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 18. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 19. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum

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Guwan tu ‘Pictures of Ancient Playthings’, Scene 20. Ink and colours on paper, Height: 62.5 centimetres (?), Length: 20 metres (approx). Anonymous artists of the Qing imperial painting academy, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated equivalent to AD 1728. Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese  Art (PDF X01) © Trustees of the British Museum