Portrait paintings from the Ming and Qing dynasties are one of the featured collections of the National Museum of China (NMC), with a total number of nearly 1,000 pieces. It is one of the oldest genres of Chinese painting. As it emphasizes on the description of the characters, it is also called Xiezhen (painting that shows the exact image of the subject), Chuanshen (painting that vividly portrays the subject), Xiezhao (painting that depicts the subject) and Chuanxie (painting that sketches the subject) in Chinese. The infancy of Chinese portrait painting appears between the ancient times and the Western Han dynasty, and its maturity starts from the Six dynasties to the Tang and Song dynasties. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, portrait painting developed independently with diversity. It reached an unprecedented period of prosperity in its development with the coexistence of realistic and freehand style and became popular among both the court and the folk under the influence of foreign cultures.
The NMC has collected scores of portrait paintings from the Ming and Qing dynasties that present various subjects and forms. This never-held-before special exhibition displays the history, literature and aesthetic value of these artworks from different aspects. The exhibition features more than 50 pieces (sets) of paintings displayed in 4 sections: “Emperors and Royal Families”, “Literati Gatherings”, “Famous Officials, Celebrities and Ladies”, and “Scholars”. Visitors would have a glimpse into the characteristics of the NMC’s portrait collections and the change and evolution of portrait paintings across the Ming and Qing dynasties.