Table screen: Gathering of scholars
China, mid-18th century
Lacquered wood, height 63.4 cm
This screen shows the refined scholarly taste during the Qianlong reign 乾隆 (1736–95). The narrative scenes are carved through thick layers of red, green, and ochre lacquer. The object is small enough to be set on a scholar’s table for detailed study.
One side of the screen depicts a 4th-century gathering of scholars. The famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi 王羲之 is shown at his writing desk, while other scholars compose poems along the river. Wang’s most famous work, Lanting Xu 兰亭序, commemorates this event. An attendant brings a cup, while another carries a goose. Wine cups on lotus leaves float along the river. Wang Xizhi reared geese and is said to have developed the technique of rotating his wrist while writing by watching the neck movements of the birds.
On the back, an old man and several children near a pavilion watch a crane flying away. No specific story or episode has been linked to this scene, but cranes are associated with longevity, so that might be the general subject.