Watercolor on silk mounted on rice paper using traditional Chinese technique
54″ x 88″
Dream of the Red Chamber hero Baoyu’s elder sister, Jia Yuanchun heads the quartet of the four Jia daughters. Her name means Cardinal Spring and sets the pattern for the naming of the other three. She is so named because she was born on the first day of spring. Before she entered the emperor’s service, she took care of Baoyu like a mother. Her selection as an imperial concubine marks the pinnacle of the rise of the Jia fortune. But in her visit to her parents, she complains bitterly of life in the palace. The construction of Prospect Garden in anticipation of her visit also puts strain on the Jias’ already dwindling resources. After her visit, she orders the garden to be kept open as a place of residence for Baoyu and his female companions where they are allowed for the most part to lead an idyllic existence relatively free of parental supervision-especially from Baoyu’s disciplinarian father. In the sequel, Yuanchun dies of a sudden illness at the age of forty-three.
Talent and morality. Little of her personality comes out; hence she is painted in the formal, imperial manner. She is wearing the official gown with “golden phoenix” crown. The golden phoenix is one of four “fabulous beasts.” It is reserved for people of the imperial class.