The Night Entertainments of Han Xizai (韓熙載夜宴圖)
Attributed to Gu Hongzhong (顧閎中, ca.910-980), Five Dynasties period (907-960)
Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 28.7 x 335.5 cm, the Palace Museum, Beijing
The Night Entertainments of Han Xizai is a painted scroll depicting Han Xizai, a minister of the Southern Tang emperor Li Yu. This narrative painting is split into five distinct sections: Han Xizai listens to the pipa, watches dancers, takes a rest, listens to the flute, and then sees guests off. As with other scrolls, Gu Hongzhong's work is meant to be viewed from right to left.
Gu Hongzhong was supposedly sent to "spy" on Han Xizai. In one version of the story, Han Xizai repeatedly missed early-morning audiences with the emperor because of his revelry and needed to be shamed into dignified behavior. In another version of the story, Han Xizai had refused Li Yu's offer to make him prime minister. Curious, Li Yu wanted to know what was more desirable to Han Xizai than such a high position.