In this essay, Along the River During the Qingming Festival of the Song dynasty, and its multimedia rework River of Wisdom will be put into focus. The essay will explore the relationship between the two works, and compare it in terms of media, context and function.
The piece Along the River During the Qingming Festival, otherwise known as Qingming Shanghe Tu, is a scroll painting by Northern Song dynasty (960 – 1127 AD) artist Zhang Zeduan. The painting was treasured and even made copies of by Chinese emperors throughout dynasties, and today it is often named as one of the most valued traditional Chinese paintings, known for its intricate details of a prosperous city during the Song period. Given the age of the painting, there were little information from the time period that tells the piece’s original meaning; though today, the general consensus is that the painting depicts life in Bianjing (the capital of the Song dynasty) during the Qingming festival, a traditional Chinese holiday that honors ancestors.
River of Wisdom, on the other hand, is an animated film that brought the classical painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival to motion. Premiered at the Shanghai World Expo of 2010, the piece was 30 times the size of the original work, measuring at 6 x 120 meters. It adapted the classic to be enjoyed by the general public with the help of digital animation, bringing the characters to life. The exhibit was a commercial success, and later on it even toured throughout asia.
While it has received a great response from the public, there were debates on whether River of Wisdom has excessively reworked the Chinese classical, while still advertising the exhibition as an animated version of Zhang’s Along.
Along, which claims to be the original artwork under a new media, might as well be an entirely new artwork, given that the two are different in context, function, and purpose. As it will be explored later, instead of keeping changes to a minimal, River of Wisdom has added heavy changes to the original artwork. How do we justify such changes, and what effect will this change in media have on the perception of the audience? These questions will be thoroughly explored in the essay.