“Along the River During the Qingming Festival” is a Chinese artwork attributed to the Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145) and painted over a wide handscroll 25.5 centimetres in height and 5.25 meters in length. The painting, now in the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing, describes, through a parallel projection and a huge amount of details, the daily life of Bianjing, today’s Kaifeng in Henan, including, within the same synchronic view, the countryside, the city centre and a temples area connected to the coast just outside the city walls. People, architectural types, landscapes and activities variate according to the portrayed sceneries, interpreting the different economical conditions and social structures in the central areas, in the periphery and in the rural landscapes. The detailed depiction of each element and the accurate description of their reciprocal relationships, let the painting be a vast source of information about daily life and culture in the Chinese region at the early 12th century. The use of parallel projection emphatizes the sinchronicity of the multiple scenes and the diversity of economical activities and architectural details of the whole region, celebrating the richness of the territory and its culture.
Whereas the same level of accuracy is attributed to each element, the activities are more or less rich and intense in regard to different areas of the scroll, providing an addictional level of narrative to the scene. The focal point is the scene taking place around the inhabited bridge crossing the central river: there, a crowd shouts from the riverside to a boat as this risks to crash onto the bridge.
The piece is often described as one of the most famous works of Chinese art and its complexity and iconicity led to a huge spread of interpretations and reproductions of the whole scene or of single details during time. In 2010 an animated 3D reproduction of the painting has been made and exhibited for three months at the Chinese pavilion at the World Expo.
The whole handscroll is visible in its entirety at a very good resolution on Wikipedia. Here follows a visual link to Wikipedia for the original 12th century “Along the River During Qingming Festival” by Zhang Zeduan, and all the slides (left to right) from a colourful 18th Century remake.