When emperor Qianlong visited Jiangnan-the southern region of the Yangtze River for the fourth time, he arrived in Jinling. He rolled out the painting “Jinling Cityscape by Song Court Artists,” and started to identify the sceneries in respect of the actual places of his surroundings, astonished by what he saw, the emperor composed six poems with his ink brush. Later on, he commanded three court artists Xie Sui, Yang Dazhang, and Feng Ning to imitate the painting.
The court artist Feng Ning created the current version of “An Era in Jinling,” the scenery consists of three parts: the rural view of the countryside, the street view of the Qinhuai wet market, and the landscape view of the city’s outskirt. In total, there are 533 figures and 90 animals in this painting. It vividly depicts the details of Nanjing in the old time, including the pleasant countryside scenery, the happiness of its citizen, and their delightful way of living; as well as the hustle-bustle social and commercial activities that happened in the city.
Regarding the surviving works of its genre, it is rare to find a long hand scroll depicting the customs of Nanjing in the old days; in addition, since the original work “Jinling Cityscape by Song Court Artists” is lost, based on its image, “An Era in Jinling” by Feng Ning provides valuable information for the research study of ancient Nanjing. Among the three versions of “Jinling Cityscape by Song Court Artists,” the present painting is the only work that made its way to its home-Nanjing, the city the painting itself depicts.