Children Playing on a Winter Day, Su Han-chen, 12th century. National Palace Museum, Taipei (WikiCommons).

This silk scroll, attributed to Su Han-chen in the 12th century China, depicts a little boy and a little girl playing with a little kitten. Su Han-chen was a native of Kaifeng, Henan, who specialized in painting Buddhist and Taoist figures.

The girl is a little older and wears a white gown, not an everyday outfit, and wears her hair tied up into three knots. The little boy also wears his hair tied up into knots. The girl seems to be leading in trying to tempt the kitten into playing with them. She holds a peacock feather banner similar to those used in dramas to indicate a leader. This is an image of harmony and innocence, with the girl rendered beautifully and semi-realistically. It is very unlikely these are real children, and more likely to be an idealized scene.

This hanging highlights the innocence of childhood and the presence of the plum blossom, bamboo, and camellia identify it as a winter scene. It is rather large, at almost 2 meters high, and was though to be one of a pair of scrolls that would have hung in the apartments of royalty. It relates to the “One Hundred Children” theme concerning domestic prosperity through longevity of the family line and was considered especially appropriate for the private spaces of the inner quarters of the imperial palace.

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