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Local artist creates over 3,000 paintings of women from Tang Dynasty

Guo Shuyu


Each of Fan's paintings depicts a different woman and provides a glimpse into life in the royal palace during the Tang Dynasty. [Photo provided by Fan Ping]

Fan Ping has been painting for 17 years, bringing a myriad of ladies from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to life.

As the daughter of a craftsman at a local theater in Chongqing, Fan spent most of her childhood watching a variety of traditional Chinese dramas performed there and observing how her father drew posters and set stages before shows.

"That's when my love for traditional Chinese culture started to take root, and when I started learning to draw and do traditional Chinese handicrafts," Fan said. She was able to draw posters when she was just 12 years old.

And she has never stopped drawing since. At the age of 25, she read a poem by Bai Juyi, a prominent poet from the Tang Dynasty, and came up with an idea.

"The poem is about aristocratic women, and there is a line that goes 'In inner palace dwelt three thousand ladies fair; on her alone was lavished royal love and care'. It strikes me that most ladies in the royal palace lived a lonely and sad life. I want to tell their stories by painting their portraits, all 3,000 of them," Fan said,

"Of all the characters in dramas I've watched, I find ladies from the Tang Dynasty the most beautiful. They always wear elaborate dresses with exquisite hairstyles, ornaments, and makeup, revealing their tenderness and elegance," she added.

The Tang Dynasty represented an era in Chinese history when art, culture, and the economy were all highly developed and flourishing. During that time, a new fashion was invented, where women would wear low-cut garments under a cape over the shoulder, exposing the beauty of their bodies as never before.

Fan did a lot of research for the paintings, each one of which depicts a different woman and provides a glimpse into life in the royal palace.

"They are figures of my imagination but grow on solid ground. Most ladies I paint come from a story or a poem. They have different social backgrounds, ages, and experiences, which are vividly told in the details," she said.

"I perused all the papers I could get my hands on to figure out how the garments, hairstyles, accessories, and makeup should look before actually picking up my paintbrush," she said.

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