|KEY WORD :@art history / paintings|
Yangguifei (719-756). The famous Chinese beauty and concubine of Emperor
Xuanzong (Jp: *Gensou º@,
685-762), whose many depictions in painting and sculpture epitomize the
feminine ideal of the Tang Dynasty. The wife of Xuanzong's son, Yangguifei
caught the eye of the aged-emperor, over sixty at the time, and became his
consuming passion. As his favorite she used the emperor's affection to secure
high positions for her family, and so aroused much resentment. During the
755 rebellion led by An Lushan (Jp: An Rokusan À\R, ?-757), the emperor
and Yangguifei fled the capital for Sichuan lì with loyal troops. When the
entourage reached the village of Mawei nÊ, the soldiers demanded the execution
of Yangguifei, the perceived cause of the social unrest. Heartbroken but
powerless, the emperor permitted Yangguifei to be killed. After suppressing
the rebellion and returning to the capital, the emperor was haunted by the
desire to see Yangguifei again. He summoned a Taoist wiseman to search for
her spirit. The sorcerer eventually found her living on Penglaishan (Jp:
the Isle of the Immortals, and he returned with some momentoes and a message
for the emperor. This tragic story is told in the famous narrative ode The
Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Ch: Changhenge, Jp: Chougonka ·¦Ì) by
the Tang poet Bai Letian (Jp:*Haku
Rakuten yV; 772-846). The poem became popular in Japan, especially
at the Heian court, where it's influence extended to GENJI MONOGATARI ¹¨ê (The Tale of Genji ; early 11c, see *genji-e ¹G). In Japanese eyes, Yangguifei is an enormously sympathetic character.
Her story was eventually adapted into the *nou \ play, YOUKIHI, by Konparu Zenchiku àtT| (1405-1468) and retold
in popular songs of the Edo period. The 13c sculpture, Youkihi Kannon kMÜÏ¹ at Sennyuuji òO in Kyoto, said to have been made in prayer for Yangguifei's
happiness in the next life, is one early example of representations including
religious images that were created out of her legend.
The earliest Japanese painted depictions of Yangguifei are in illustrations of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow. In the 16-17c, interest in the ode had developed into a broader taste for screen paintings of imaginary Tang court scenes, featuring beautiful Chinese women. Chief among these paintings are scenes of elegant battles, fuuryuujin ¬l, showing two teams of courtiers, led by Xuanzong and Yangguifei, holding flowers as if spears. Yangguifei has long been associated with erotic themes, evident in Edo period painting subjects such as "Youkihi mounting a horse" and "Gensou teaching Youkihi to play the flute" found in paintings by Gen Ki ¹« (1747-97) and Iwasa Matabee â²ºq (1578-1650, MOA), as well as in many *ukiyo-e ¢G,.
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