100-Deer Vase

Qing Dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736 - 1795)
Shanghai Museum

The long reign of emperor Qianlong saw both the high point of China's prosperity, and the beginning of its decline, as it struggled to counter internal difficulties and mounting pressure from the West. The vase shows "100" deer (not literally; 100 is a conventional number indicating abundance) disporting themselves in a mountain landscape with rivers and trees. The painting on the vase, unlike some other works of the period, seems largely uninfluenced by Western notions of perspective and composition. However, some influence of Western technique can perhaps be seen on such details as the use of graduated color on the rocks, and stippling on the coats of the deer.

The composition is brilliantly suited to the form of the vase, as the expansive foreground on the vase's bulbous body leads upward to the mountain peaks on its neck.