Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河图, Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú), was

painted by Zhang Zeduan and is 528.7 cm (208.15 inch) long and 25.2cm (9.92 inch) wide. This article will encompass how the painting was created and how the tools were used. (Zhang Zeduan)

Era Comparison

In Northern Song (北宋, běi sòng ) era, this style of painting was common. The painters of Northern Song like to draw pictures about history and realistic stories. Thus, the comparison between Zhang and painters who were in the same era is not obvious. However, compared to Zhang’s other paintings, “Along the River” was longer and more detailed, though they were from same school. Zhang only used one year to finish this painting. (Beisong Zhang Zeduan)


The four treasures in a Chinese study

Painting the picture needs many tools. Because of special tools, this picture is different from Western paintings. The most famous four tools are called “the four treasures in a Chinese study” (文房四宝, wén fáng sì bǎo).

Chinese brushes

Along the River was painted with Chinese brushes. Compared to oil painting brushes, Chinese brushes are softer and longer. They have different structures. Chinese brushes are like a long spinous water drop while oil painting brushes are short and flat. Chinese brushes are mostly divided into wolf-hair brushes and wool brushes. The primary functions of wolf-hair brushes are drawing the outline of objects. Compared to wool brushes, they were more elastic and easier to turn around. The wool brushes are softer and could absorb more ink. In the process of drawing Along the River, Zhang used these two kinds of brushes. Besides, the difference of brushes’ function, the sizes of the brushes have distinctions. Roughly, there are small, medium, and big sizes of the brushes. Small size brushes can be used to draw little details and middle size brushes is used to draw things like plants and houses, and big size brushes are painting big objects like mountain. Not every painter needs to use all the three sizes brushes, it depends on the ability of the painter. Because even though the big size brushes can absorb more water, painters can control their strength and paint the way they want. In Along the River During the Qingming Festival, Zhang would use small and middle size brushes the most, since he was drawing the normal life of people.

Xuan paper

Another important tool is xuan paper, which is particularly used to draw Chinese painting---Guohua. It also has a lot of types. For example, Shengxuan, Shexuan, Banshuxuan are the biggest three catalogue. Since Shengxuan and Banshuxuan is easier for water to go into the paper, these two kinds of xuan papers are normally used to paint scenery like mountain and waterfall. Thus, Zhang was using Shuxuan to draw this picture. His picture concentrated detailed things, like people’s activities and the form of the bridge.

Ink and ink stone

Besides, ink and ink stone are also important tools. “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” was using black outlines the most. For example, there was a small forest in the painting. Zhang used brushes to draw the outline of trees. Sometimes, he used soft strength to make the tree looked like flew by winds. Sometimes, he used strong strength to make the tree looked like living for a lot of years. Time that the color can be kept is depended on the quality of the ink in a way. In ancient Chinese, ink needs to be grinded by ink stone. Great ink stone can help ink to show as thick and uniform.

Other materials

There are a lot of other materials, which are also taking a big role in drawing the picture, like Chinese pigment, penholder, felt and more. Taking advantages of these tools can help painters draw pictures in a better way.


Generally, the painting were painted by outlining lines firstly. For example, Zhang was drawing a story about a grandson and a Grandpa. In a poor forest with clear river, a grandpa and his grandson drove 5 donkeys in a small street. The grandson led the head of donkeys and the grandfather went in the back of the group. They made sounds like yo-heave-ho to urge donkeys passing. Zhang would draw outline of the grandson and grandpa first by using one small brush. Absorbing some ink in the brush, mixing some water in the brush and then use a mop to clear some water from the brush, now, the color of ink was more like gray rather than black. For the reason that, the outline cannot be too thick in the first time. Then, using the same brush to draw that poor forest. Leaving enough space for the river, since river cannot be draw in shapes by outlining. Then, using a middle brush and absorbing a little ink and a lot of water to make the color looked like thin gray. Using the side of the brush, and lightly used the brush to draw an irregular flat as the shaper of the river. Then using that small brush with ink to paint some lines on the river, which could make the river look like moving. The outline cannot be finished at once. It must be repeated and repeated until the foundation was basically settled. The last sequence was coloring the picture. Trees were green in the painting. Zhang used blue pigment, which was called “Huaqng” and yellow pigment, which was called “Tenghuang”. Mixing these two color little with little, Zhang used the cusp of the brushes to mix these two color, until mixed color---green was absorbed by root of the brushes. Then using the same way to color trees as drawing the shape of river. These were rough strategies that part of the painting painted out.


Zhang used a special picture composition mode, which was cavalier perspective. This composition can give audience a sense of space. Specifically, it is things look small in the distance and big on the contrary. By using this composition, painters are easier to give the picture a great momentum. Compared to western composition--- focus perspective which is generally used in western painting and concentrated on realistic style, scattered perspective is focusing on creating a sense. The composition of the picture Zhang drew this picture to describe the urban appearance and livelihood status from different stratums in Beijing of Beisong dynasty. The picture is in form of long page in order to show people’s detailed life.

Background and Meaning

The background of the picture is a rich but worse dynasty. Although Along the River During the Qingming Festival is showing a busy and flourishing scene, Zhang was trying to show his concern since officers were indolent and tax was too heavy for common people. The purpose of this picture is to warn the government. Song was rich at that time. However, most officials and even the government only enjoyed the rich environment, but did nothing to keep that rich. There was no doubt, the strength of Song is going down, though what it showed out now was still prosperous. Thus, Zhang was worried about this and concerned a lot. He hoped he can warn people form the painting.


“Beisong Zhang Zeduan Qingming Shanghetu Jiemi” (北宋张择端清明上河图揭秘), Gugongbowuyuanbanquansuoyou, Accessed 29 April 2017.

“Zhang Zeduan” (张择端), Boyarenwuwang, [[ zhangzeduan.html]]. Accessed 

External Links

Northern Song Landscape Painting
Along The River During the Qingming Festival

Along The River During the Qingming Festival