This Art Educator Put a Pandemic Spin on a Classic Chinese Painting

The extraordinary artwork celebrates the resilience of locals during challenging times

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10:16 PM HKT, Wed June 16, 2021 1 mins read

An enthralling modern reinterpretation of one of the most famous Chinese paintings ever, Along the River During the Qingming Festival, is going viral online.

While the original depicts life in the capital city Bianjing (now Kaifeng in Henan) during Qingming Festival at the time, the updated version highlights critical Covid-19 containment efforts in the modern era.
Covid art qingmingshanghetu foshan

Covid art qingmingshanghetu foshan

Inspired by the efforts of healthcare workers, neighborhood workers and volunteers during mass Covid-19 testing locally, Zhijie Chen, a young arts educator based in Foshan in China’s southern Guangdong province, wanted to document how the community came together to battle the pandemic in trying times.

Using nucleic acid test scenes as the backdrop and featuring a total of 345 figures, including 136 medical workers, the panoramic painting includes a huge amount of detail, while also illustrating local cultural and historical landmarks.

Covid art qingmingshanghetu foshan

Covid art qingmingshanghetu foshan

“I wanted to be one of the volunteers but walk-in signup was not an option. So I started wondering if I could try to paint something since I have that skill,” Chen said in an interview with news publication Yangtse Evening Post. “I was hoping when I finished the painting, the local outbreak in Foshan would be under control.”

The painting took Chen five days to complete, and started making headlines online after being discovered by netizens, “Astounding! Talented and heartful,” one netizen commented under a related post on Chinese microblogging site Weibo.


This comes after a Covid-19 outbreak in Guangdong province, with the first new local case being reported on May 21, and which resulted in rapid medical mobilization for tests, vaccinations and partial lockdown in some cities in the region, including the capital Guangzhou and nearby Foshan.

Sometimes referred as “China’s Mona Lisa,” Along the River During the Qingming Festival is one of the best-known masterpieces in China’s art history. Made by the Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (CE 1085–1145), the painting is also a historical document capturing the daily life of people on the streets at the time.

All images: Weibo

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