The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang

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“The Portraits of Periodical Offering” is an official historical print with the portraits of ambassadors to the imperial court of China lined up to pay tribute with gifts. The Chinese phrase roughly translated to “duty offering pictorial”.

Throughout Chinese history, kingdoms and tribes conquered by Chinese forces were required to send ambassadors to the imperial court of China. This print with descriptions were used to record the expression of these ambassadors and to show the cultural aspects of the ethnic group represented in the drawing. These historical descriptions became the equivalent of documents of diplomatic relations with each country. The drawings were reproduced in woodblock printing and distributed among the bureaucracy in albums.

The Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang by the Emperor Yuan of Liang Xiao Yi, dated to the 6th century, is the earliest surviving of these historical paintings. The original of the work was lost, and the only surviving edition of this work was a copy from the 11th century.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                   Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang
  • Chinese:             职贡图
  • Year:                   6th century (original) – 11the century (copy)
  • Period:               Song Dynasty
  • Museum:           The National Museum of China

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“It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but hard to find a good general.” Chinese Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons