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Zhaoling Liujun Tu (昭陵六駿圖; “Painting of the Six Steeds of Zhaoling”), part of the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing, is an extremely important work. This is not only because it is a rare example of a surviving painting from the Jin Dynasty (金代; 1115~1234), but also because the date of its creation, in the 1220s, is clearly marked at the bottom edge of the work. Works with dates recorded clearly in this way are important both because their certain dates establish their authenticity, and because they function as benchmarks for determining with credibility the characteristics of the paintings of their age, by way of comparison with generic works and written materials. The Zhaoling Liujun Tu is notable for the fact that it is based on the Zhaoling Liujun (昭陵六駿; “Six Steeds of Zhaoling”) the stone relief carvings of the same six horses (637~649) at the famous Zhaoling Tomb, where Emperor Taizong (太宗) of the Tang Dynasty is buried. Zhaoling Liujun Tu depicts six horses ridden by Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (599~649; personal name Lee Shimin) during his active days on the battlefield. An inscription added to the painting by scholar Zhao Bingwen (趙秉文; 1159~1232), together with knowledge of circumstances at the time confirm that the work was painted by court painter Zhao Lin (趙霖) on the orders of Emperor Shizong (世宗) of the Jin Dynasty. Though Zhaoling Liujun Tu was essentially based on the Tang stone relief carvings, it does show certain differences, such as in the way it expresses a division of the horses’ manes into three parts, a form of expression known as sanhua (三花), and the way it depicts their fetlock feathers, due to differences in medium and period. Although Zhao Lin based his depiction of the six steeds on the forms and style used by Yan Liben (閻立本), the artist who carved their stone relief counterparts, he did attempt to faithfully follow Tang painting styles, such as those of Tang master painter Han Gan (韓幹). The fact that Zhao Lin was able to make use of Tang styles is probably due in large part to the fact that the most of the art collection of Emperor Huizong (徽宗) of the Song Dynasty (1082~1135) had fallen into the hands of Jin. Emperor Shizong of Jin was similar in several aspects to Taizong of Tang,including the fact that both monarchs laid the foundations of their dynasties and both possessed military spirit as leaders; this led Shizong to follow Taizong. Shizong was infatuated by the political text Zhenguan Zhengyao (貞觀政要; “Essentials of the Government of the Zhenguan Period [the reign of Taizong]”), this interest appears to have extended to Taizong’s horses, as depicted in the stone relief carvings. Ultimately, Shizong’s commissioning of Zhao Lin to paint Zhaoling Liujun Tu, too, was probably due to his will to invoke Taizong of Tang, whom he simply could not emulate enough. Perhaps, when gazing at Taizong’s Zhaoling Liujun, Shizong felt a sense of pride at being just as talented a monarch and military man as Taizong.


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