Children at Play in an Autumnal Garden (秋庭戲嬰圖)
Su Hanchen (蘇漢臣, fl. mid-12th c.), Song Dynasty (960-1279)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 197.8 x 108.4 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
Using a deft brush and delicate colors, Su Hanchen has conveyed the quality of children concentrating on play. These lively, adorable figures appear in a garden setting that bears blossoms of hibiscus and chrysanthemums, symbols fully conveying the sense of an autumn day. This work shows a boy and girl playing a game called spinning dates. Completely intent on their game, their attitudes are most natural. On the ground and the round garden stool nearby are fine toys, such as a game board, miniature pagoda, and a pair of cymbals. In the garden, an ornamental Lake Tai rock dominates the composition. Every detail in this work is precisely delineated, making it one of Su Hanchen's surviving masterpieces. Since the game that the children are playing here is associated with northern China (combined with the fact that the realism relates to the court style of the Northern Song), this work may have been done when Su was still working under Emperor Huizong.