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Sweet osmanthus by Jiang Tingxi 蔣廷錫

© National Palace Museum, Taipei

Hanging scroll by Jiang Tingxi 蔣廷錫 (1669-1732)

Inscription, a poem by Kangxi Emperor 康熙 (1654-1722, ruled 1621-1722):






[I] sit and gaze at the full moon of the mid-autumn day,

[With] precious, delicate osmanthus planted today.

Generously illuminating all, even beyond the Eight Wastelands, [2]

The clear, pure light extends to the edge of the welkin.

Gazing at the moon on the mid-autumn day.

[1] Red characters rhyme.

[2] Bahuang 八荒 refers to all the wastelands in cardinal and ordinal directions.

The four seals around the inscription:

佩文齋 (Esteemed Writing Studio): the name of Kangxi Emperor’s studio

嘉慶御覽之寶 (Treasures appreciated personally by the Jiaqing Emperor)

康熙宸翰 (Polaris works of Kangxi Emperor): chen 宸 (Pole Star) is a metaphor for the emperor’s residence

保合太和 (Preserving union in great harmony): one of Kangxi’s seals, a quote from the Book of Changes


As we just celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival (21 September 2021) last week, it is fitting to enjoy a painting of sweet osmanthus, the symbol of autumn. The tiny flowers are widely used in Chinese cuisine for cakes, liquor, infused tea, etc.


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