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Asian art

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Tartars hunting

circa 1550


Unknown Artist


Japan's relationship with Chinese culture has always been a complex one of absorption, transmutation or rejection. The tensions inherent in the Japanese synthesis of China are evident in this rare and important screen. It illustrates a Chinese subject and technique, and a Japanese sense of space and empathy with nature. The scene, realised with orthodox Chinese brushwork, is a depiction of Tartars hunting, a popular Chinese subject from the thirteenth century. The Chinese both admired and feared the hunting and military skills of the fierce nomadic Tartars with whom they were frequently at war. The eye is drawn to the dense mass of figures in the upper left, typical of such scenes. This group is undoubtedly a representation of the infamous incident when a Hiongnu Tartar chieftain captured a beautiful Chinese lady and carried her off to Mongolia in 195 CE. She bore him two children and was deeply happy. When her family reclaimed her, forcing her from her husband and children, she composed poignant verses which have since become Chinese classics.

'Asian Art', AGNSW Collections, 1994, pg. 214.


Other Title

Hunting scene before the Emperor of Mongolia

Place where the work was made



circa 1550

Media category


Materials used

single six-panel screen; colours on paper


141.0 x 337.7 cm image; 154 x 348.6 cm screen

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Paul Haefliger 1982


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Referenced in 3 publications


Christine France, Art and Australia (Vol. 37, No. 1), 'A Matter of Taste', pg. 75 - 81., Sydney, 1999, 78 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, AGNSW Collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 214 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The World of Samurai Culture', Sydney, 2003, 212 (colour illus.).