Chinese Paintings Which Tell Stories

In modern times, a photo is worth a thousand words; in ancient China, a painting was worth a thousand words. At that time, painting was an influential medium to promote cultural values and political agendas, as well as to express personal feelings and thoughts. "Chinese paintings which tell story" is exactly the theme of「Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting」exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition classifies paintings into different categories according to narrative style. Stories are sometimes conveyed in long handscrolls, along with corresponding texts, like "Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao Entering the Tiantai Mountains" painted by Zhao Cangyun in Yuan Dynasty. A painting can also tell stories without any words, like "Searching the Mountains for Demons" by Zheng Zhong in Ming Dynasty. A story call also be portrayed by the most significant scene, examples include a painting which depicts the famous recluse poet, Tao Yuanming returning home by boat. Painting of a pair of deer antler by Emperor Qianlong may look generic, yet the inscriptions tell various stories, like imperial hunting of Emperor Kangxi.

There are over a hundred exhibits in total, each carrying different themes including history, religion, friendship and so on. Besides Chinese paintings, the exhibition also displays other forms of art which tell stories, like ceramics and jade artifacts. For instance, "Table Screen with Bodhidharma Crossing on a Reed", a jade artifact crafted in Qianlong period, depicts the famous story of Bodhidharma crossing the Yangtze River in Zen Buddhism.

Exhibition Hightlights

Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao Entering the Tiantai Mountains

Searching the Mountains for Demons

Ode on Returning Home

Two Paintings of Deer Antlers

Table Screen with Bodhidharma Crossing Waves on a Reed

(Pictures: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Exhibition Details

Date: October 29,2016 - August 6, 2017
Venue: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Exhibition Website


Information of The Met Fifth Avenue

Opening Hours:
10:00 - 17:30, Thursday to Sunday
10:00 - 21:00, Friday to Saturday
(Closed on 1 May)

1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, USA

+1 212-731-1498

Admission (Ticket includes same-day admission to The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters):



65 and above




Under 12




(No additional charge for this exhibition)