The Painting “Hanxizhai and the Evening-Banquet”

Originaly from a noble family in northern China, Han Xizhai sought refuge with the Southern Tang Dynasty after his father was killed by Li Siyuan, the emeror of the late Tang Dynasty, and lived at Qijiashan to the southeast of Changganli. People of the following generations got to know this noted talent due to the painting named “Han Xizhai and the Evening-Banquet” which has been famous since ancient times.
In succession, he assumed the official post of Zhongshusilang and Xueshi of Guangzheng Hall. Though taking a fancy to his talent, emperor Li Yu of the Southern Tang Dynasty did not agree with his political proposition of unifying central China. At this time, Han Xizhai became aware that Li Yu had no ambition and that the imperial court was full of interpersonal disputes. Therefore, Han Xizhai had to puzzle people through indulging in recreation and women to keep himself away from harm by discretion. At that time, he was regarded throughout the imperial court as a fatuous person intoxicated with wine and women. However, Li Yu doubted it, hence sending for Gu Hongzhong, a noted painter, to Han’s home to find out what had happened. Upon arrival at Han’s home, Gu Hongzhong saw Han Xizhai have his wife, concubines and female singers around him while wining and dining joyfully at a banquet. Returning from the banquet at night, Gu Hongzhong completed a painting named “Han Xizhai and the Evening-Banquet” according to what he memorized, i.e. the envrionment and facial expression of human figures concerned at the banquet, and then presented the painting to Li Yu. Seeing the painting, Li Yu found that Han Xizhai had actually been trying to cover his inner world with the banquet, music, singing and dance, since Han’s facial expression was full of covert worries and meditation. As a result, Li Yu wanted to drive him out of the capital, but gave up the idea after Han Xizhai submitted a memorial to him to ask for punishment and begged for it in real earnest. After having been frightened this time, Han Xizhai soon died of illness. After death, he was posthumously admitted as “Youpushetongpingzhangshi” (a kind of official post), entitled “Wenjing”. Han Xizhai was the author of “Yiyiji” and “Dingjuji”, etc. After one of his tours in the area to the north of the Yangtze River, he wrote a poem named “Recall with emotion”: “Originally a native in the area to the north of the Yangtze River, I am now a guest in the area to the south of the Yangtze River. I knew no one during my tour in the area to the north of the Yangtze River. I feel cold amidst autumn wind under autumn moon. I might as well return to the area to the north of the Yangtze River so that people in the area to the south of the Yangtze River may miss me.” The painting “Han Xizhai and the Evening-Banquet” kept in the Palace Museum now is the copy in the Song Dynasty. Clothes, human figures, wine-cups, candles, the anti-mosqito net and musical intruments depicted in the painting are precoius objects for studying the history of the Southern Tang Dynasty.


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