Scenes from The Admonitions Scroll (5th or 6th century copy of Gu Kaizhi's work). Scene summaries from Shane McCausland's First Masterpiece of Chinese Painting: The Admonitions Scroll (New York: George Braziller, 2003), p. 37-38. Click on the thumbnail image to see a bigger version of each scene. To see the entire extant scroll, click here.


Introduction: male and female, ruler and ruled. The role of women in Chinese
civilization is to be 'submissive and meek' within the household.

[scene is lost]


Lady Fan: Lady Fan curbs her husband King Zhuang of Chu's excessive love
of hunting by refusing to eat the flesh of the animals he killed for three

[scene is lost]


The Lady of Wei: the Lady of Wei ignores her own love of music to reform
her husband Duke of Huan of Qi's taste for licentious melody.

[scene is lost]


Lady Feng: Lady Feng selflessly steps into the path of an escaped black
bear that has targeted her husband, Han emperor Yuandi, but is saved by
armed guards.

[inscription is lost]


Lady Ban: Lady Ban refuses to ride in the imperial palanquin for fear
of making her husband, the Han emperor Chengdi, appear like a bad ruler.


The mountain and hunter: a mountain and a hunter with a crossbow about
to shoot a tiger. An illustration of the couplet, 'To rise to glory is as
hard as to build a mountain out of dust; To fall into calamity is as easy
as the rebound of a tense spring.'


The toilette scene: two women are tending to their make-up and hair in
illustration of the couplet, 'Men and women know how to adorn their faces,
But there is none who knows how to adorn his character.'


The bedroom scene: seated on a canopied bed, an emperor and his concubine
eye one another with suspicion to illustrate how false words will cause
even your bedfellow to distrust you.


The family scene: several generations of a family sit together to illustrate
the couplet, 'Let your hearts be as locusts And your race shall multiple.'


The rejection scene: an advancing beauty is rejected by the emperor: 'If
by a mincing air you seek to please, Wise men will abhor you.'


A lady reflects upon her conduct: 'Fulfill your duties calmly and respectfully;
Thus shall you win glory and honour.'


Conclusion: the court instructress. The court instructress writes out
her admonitions for presentation to her peers, as two palace ladies approach