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Paradise found

Updated: 2024-01-06 09:45 ( China Daily )
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In 1644, eight years before the creation of the group portrait, the last Ming emperor hanged himself in Beijing, and later, the Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty claimed for themselves the throne in the Forbidden City.

Xiang, 47 at the time, painted a self-portrait, placing himself in the middle of a typical Jiangnan landscape rendered completely in red. And it's no coincidence that zhu, the Chinese character for red, was the surname of the ruling family of Ming.

The man made no secret as to where his heart lay. Yet if he had lived long enough, he would have been able to see Dong, his mentor, being celebrated posthumously by successive generations of Qing emperors, who considered themselves inheritors of the country's immense and invaluable cultural heritage.

In the 1652 group portrait — on view at the Cleveland museum, both Xiang and Dong wear distinctive caps, the kind that was sported by literati of the Eastern Jin Dynasty.

"They were aware that they lived in the land of Tao Yuanming," says Von Spee.

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