Kings of Birds: Chinese Paintings Evoking Imperial Court Traditions

In Chinese art two types of birds, one imaginary and the other real, are regarded as the kings of birds. The first is the mythical phoenix that presides over all winged creatures. The second is a Chinese class of birds known as ying (鹰). This category includes various raptors, such as the hawk and falcon included in this installation. Chinese court traditions of representing the phoenix and birds of prey go back thousands of years. For at least 2500 years, the phoenix has been considered an auspicious sign of peace and prosperity. Over 3000 years ago, another bird of prey, the owl, was worshipped by the Shang dynasty ruling elite. Come see owls represented on ancient Chinese jade and bronze in the collection. The earliest recorded painter of birds of prey is the 4th-century artist Sima Shao. During the 700s two popular forms of court paintings depicted birds of prey in the wild or as imperial pets. Come learn more about this painting tradition and explore its influence on other art forms, particularly ceramics.

Ming Dynasty, The Phoenix Calling the Morning Sun, probably 1600-1644