Created by Yang Jin (Chinese, 1644-1727), One Hundred Children at Play embodies numerous symbolic themes pertinent to Chinese culture traced as far back at the 10th century and is currently on view in 40 at 40: Celebrating 40 Years. Mirroring that of its name, One Hundred Children at Play portrays one hundred children playing in a garden. This theme is specific to Chinese culture and often reflects a cultural desire to carry on the familial name, bringing honor and prosperity to the family. Looking deeper into this symbolism, the depiction of children playing in a garden is seen as one of the most popular scenes in Chinese art, especially in the 10th century.
Looking at the children specifically, many are engaging in academic activities such as writing calligraphy, archery, and painting. This depiction of children in a scholarly setting is symbolic of success, and ensuring greater success in the imperial exams. Imperial exams were exams held in Imperial China up until the 20th century where students were tested on their knowledge of the classics and literature, as opposed to math and sciences. Those who tested superior became part of the imperial bureaucracy and ultimately lead the country.
To learn more about One Hundred Children at Play, come to the museum on Tuesday, March 12 at 3 P.M. Dr. Michael Hatch, Assistant Professor of Art History, will be conducting an Exhibition Talk about how Art History allows us to begin to see a painting from an entirely different time and place. Taking One Hundred Children at Play as an example, Hatch will discuss the many different ways of seeing and understanding images. From iconographic explanations to feminist interpretations, from psychological questions to social histories, this discussion will try to interpret what One Hundred Children at Play has to tell from as many perspectives as possible.