Visual Parody of Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Guifei, 1765

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Calender print of the year Meiwa 2 (1765) with the numbers for the long months on the woman's robe.

A favorite device among early ukiyo-e artists was to reference a historical event or person in a contemporary setting. Here, the depiction of two young lovers playing a single flute suggests the story of Xuanzong, the sixth emperor of China's Tang dynasty. Among his many consorts was a woman known as Yang Guifei. In addition to her physical beauty, Yang Guifei was a gifted singer, dancer, and musician. In a moment of jealousy, the emperor is said to have banished Yang Guifei when he discovered her playing another man's flute. Unable to endure her absence, however, the emperor eventually recalled her to court. The playful affection between the two lovers is suggested in this print, as well as the harmony implicit in their reconciliation.
This print also contains a secret calendar. The manner in which the leaves of bamboo cross on the woman's kimono designate the long and short months of the lunar calendar.

Visual Parody of Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Guifei
Artist Life
1725 - 1770
Accession Number
Alexis Rouart (2nd Vignier & Inada 1911, no. 172); Louis V. Ledoux (at least 1924-48); Roland Koscherak (around 1948); Richard P. Gale (until 1974)
Catalogue Raisonne
K226, Ukiyo-e shūka 4 (1979), list #124-1
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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