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Minister's Evening Party
韩熙载夜宴图》

24 September 2007
 

This is a small portion of a 3-metre wide Chinese colour-ink painting that depicts a grand party of night banquet and indoor concert in the tenth century in China.

The masterpiece, one of the numerous artistic treasures held in the former imperial palace, the Forbidden City, is divided into five sections, with each setting separated by a screen and reflecting the activities taken place in a certain time frame, which creates a sequence of the complete event.

The first section portraits an opening scene where a solo pipa performer takes central stage while all the guests listened in hush; in the following scene, the host Han Xu, a fun-chasing and work-loathing minister of a short lived tiny kingdom in the south of the Yangtze River, joins the pipaist by showing off his drum beating skills and thus becomes the new focus of the guests’ attention; the next sector sketches a much relaxed setting when everyone takes a break from their banquet eating ’n music appreciation assignment, and Han Xu the host further casually rests in his bed-shaped couch chatting with the ladies; in the forth sequence, the banquet 'n concert resume, this time it’s a string ‘n woodwind quartet that calls the shoots; the event concludes in the fifth section, when the host and guests and the artists hold a group discussion, presumably offering the feedback on the food and the music.

One evening in September 2007, this paper-based frozen sequence came alive when the artists from Taiwan, in the southeast tip of China, reproduced the scene of the ancient evening party by the red wall of the Forbidden City, which made their audience wonder 今夕何夕 (a successful time travel?).

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