This part talks about boats in the river, transportation on land, ways of transporting goods, interactions between people and some interesting characters and the concluding remarks.

Boats in the river

The boats were well built with slung rudders for steering, oars, paddles and sails. Some boats carried passengers and some carried cargo. Boats have bipod mast to support the sail. Some boats have large stern sweeps and bow sweeps. The sweeps were worked by up to 8 men.  Nail caps are visible on the outside of the boat, meaning the planks of timber can be nailed and joined together properly. This leads to the capability of building boats to the desired size.

The boat has a large stern sweep and a bow sweep. Each sweep was worked by six men.


drawing 1
The large stern sweep was worked by up to eight men.


The boat is towed by a team of porters on the shore
The boat is towed by a team of porters on the shore


boat 2
The two boat are docked along the bank for loading and unloading the passengers and cargo


A person was cooking in the boat. This implies that some people live on the boat.
A person was cooking in the boat. This implies that some people live on the boat.


Transportation on land

The long scroll shows people riding on mules, donkeys, horses, sedan chairs, carts and wagons drawn by animals. Camels carry goods and they may have come from the Silk Road.

sedan chairs 1
Two sedan chairs, each carried by two men and accompanied by a few other persons. A woman is inside the second sedan.


ching 23 - Copy - Copy
A well dressed man on horseback. He may be a government officer of high ranking and he was accompanied by a few staff.


wagon 1
A passenger wagon was drawn by two oxen


wagon 2
A passenger wagon drawn by three oxen


A cart powered by both human and animal
A heavily loaded cart with a single wheel powered by both human and animal


wagon 6
This wagon carries cargo and a passenger powered by four mules or donkeys


camels - Copy
Two camels carry loads


Ways of transporting goods

Goods were carried on the head, by hands, on the back or by over-the-shoulder pole baskets. Some goods were carried on the back of animals. Some are carried by carts or wagons drawn by animals.

A load is carried on the head


The porter carrying a heavy load on his back. The man sitting on the parcels might be a foreman or a boss giving orders to the porters.


Two porters carrying heavy load on their back and shoulder
Two porters carrying heavy load on their shoulders


agent 1
Heavy loads are carried by over-the-shoulder pole baskets


ching 27
The two horses carrying heavy loads on their back go through the narrow path of the bridge. The loads are quite bulky as well. The carrying of goods using over-the-shoulder pole baskets is more handy than by animals  in congested areas.


Lots of preparations in loading the heavy cargo onto the cart


Interactions between people and some interesting characters

The painting shows people of all classes, rich or poor, and all ages young or old.

polite people
The postures of these two individuals show their politeness to each other


beggar 1,jpeg
Two young beggars asking people for money. The artist put beggars in the painting to show the hard life of people at that time.


beggar 4
A handicapped beggar sitting on the ground begging. The person on horse back is a woman. She is thought to be a performer or actress. She is looking at the beggar. The man carrying a heavy load may be her porter or servant.


Four porters with their poles waiting patiently for work in front of an office.


b28 - Copy
A man studying by the window in a hostel. He may be busy studying for an examination to get a government post. This depicts the importance of education in the minds of the people.


The man on horseback is drawn out of proportion. It is an interesting feature in Chinese painting to exaggerate the importance of that man.


Two women buying some willow brooms from a hawker. One woman has a child in her arm. The scroll contains just a few women.


The picture shows how desperate the people on the boat are as the mast of the boat is about to collide with the bridge.


Concluding remarks

The long scroll shows a lot of contemporary details of city life. However, the restaurant and the tavern did not show any real names. A book called Dongjing Meng Hua Lu (東京夢華錄) by Meng Yuanlao (孟元老) and other Song Dynasty literature described some prominent landmarks of the capital city Biàn Liáng (汴梁such as temples, pagodas and the Song Imperial palace. None of these except the Rainbow Bridge can be found in the scroll. Zhang Zeduan has painstakingly depicted buildings, streets and waterways in a generic way so that each is realistic yet resolutely anonymous. Zhang did not portray sights of the capital city, and he chose to create a prosperous city packed with commercial and everyday activities of its residents and visitors.

Some people speculated that the scroll was painted after the humiliating defect of Northern Song in 1127, invoking a bygone time of a prosperous city. On the contrary, some people said that the scroll bore a preface ‘Along the River of Qingming’ (清明上河圖) written by Sòng Huī Zōng (宋徽宗), indicating that the scroll was kept in the palace of the Northern Song before its collapse. However, the scroll in the National Palace Museum (故宫博物院) today does not have the preface of Sòng Huī Zōng, either because it does not survive the passage of time for various reasons, or has never existed.

The enchanted artistry of the scroll coupled with the lack of sufficient documentation about the painter and his subject matter makes the scroll even more fascinating.

Qingming can simply mean ‘peaceful and orderly’ making the scroll’s title meaning’Peace Reigns over the River’.  It might have nothing to do with the Qingming Festival.


Acknowledgements :

I would like to thank all the authors listed in the ‘further readings’ below for providing all the invaluable information for me to write the page.  Their meticulous and painstaking work is greatly appreciated.

I would also like to thank Irene, my wife for proof-reading the three pages and correcting my grammatical mistakes.


Further readings : (superb page with beautiful colour images and Chinese text)

Click to access Hansen-Beijing%20Qingming%20Scroll.pdf  A Moving Masterpiece with English narration

杭侃, 宋峰 (2007) 東京夢清明上河圖 商務印書館(香港)有限公司 ISBN 978 962 07 5543 9 (要读懂清明上河图)













One thought on “Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河圖) (Part 3)

  1. Thanks greatly for sharing all the rich source of research material in the long scroll of Quingming Festival 1, 2, 3. Your detailed descriptions and assiduously analysing imbue the masterpieces with life and joyous vitality. Amazingly the masterpieces reflect the enduring and refined aestheticism of Chinese art from century to century.
    It is interesting that it was very popular with the religious supplies shop in worshipping the ancestors long ago in China. The profound and subtle sense of life and the sensitively portrays and characters are deeply inspired by this meticulous and marvellous scroll. Heartedly thanks for your incredible resources and studies.

    Liked by 1 person

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