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Illustrations to the poem “Qi yue” 七月, attributed to Ma Hezhi 馬和之 (1130-1170) Pt. 3-4

Illustrations to the poem “Qi yue” 七月 (The Seventh Month) in the “Bin feng” 豳風 (Airs of Bin) section of the Shijing 詩經 (Book of Songs), attributed to Ma Hezhi 馬和之 (1130-1170)

Picture credit: The Freer Gallery (

Image 3

Inscription 3:






In the seventh month cry the Laniidae, {Shrikes}

The eighth month is for spinning. {Silk production ends, while hemp production starts.}

Ebony[1] here, yellow there,

Our vermilion is exceedingly brilliant, {Bright, that is to say their vermilion colour is vivid.}

Making skirts for the Lord’s son.

Image 4

Inscription 4:








The days of the first are about racoon dogs.

Take those foxes and wild cats,

To make furs for the Lord’s son.

The days of the second are about the Meet,[2]

To sustain military prowess.

Keep the one-year-old boars for ourselves;

Offer the three-year-old boars to the Lord.

[1] This rendering of xuan 玄 attempts to reflect Mao’s reading tradition: “Black with a red tinge (黑而有赤也).” See [2] The Meet refers to the collective hunt in which aristocrats, ministers, and commoners all participate. See Zheng Xuan’s commentary:



The activities mentioned in the poem “Qi yue” do not really follow a chronological order, and the main activities depicted in the two images above do not take place at the same time. However, these two images present an interesting juxtaposition of two activities, one involving women (hemp production) and the other involving men (hunting), with a dedication to the Lord (possibly the figure on horseback in Image 4) and his son(s).

On the other hand, the two images approach their subject matters differently. Image 3 (lines 29-33) almost covers every line, even the singing shrikes in the tree. Although the use of black ink makes it difficult to render bright yellow and red (lines 31-32), this element of work is represented by a figure who appears to be working with a dyeing jar. We also find a shaded roll on the table, which may well be a roll of dyed fabric.

On the other hand, Image 4 (lines 38-44) does not include elements from lines 38-40 explicitly but focuses on the collective hunt instead. As all classes of society are supposed to join this hunt as a way of ritualised military training, the artist carefully differentiates figures of different social status via their outfits, even designing different looks of headgear for each figure (which is not the case in other images on this handscroll).

Inscription 1 Inscription 2 What Image 2 might be illustrating

Inscription 3 Inscription 4


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