Children at Play in the Courtyard (小庭嬰戲圖), attributed to be a Southern Song painting, ink and colour on silk, 26 x 25 cm, National Palace Museum



Four boys are playing in the courtyard. Two of them are at odds for a toy. The third boy is trying to stop the conflict. The fourth boy stands aside playing with his toys.

The four boys playing with their toys. Their clothes are beautiful and their hairs are neat and tidy.


The facial expressions on each boy are vividly drawn showing the carefree and playful nature of children at play. The creases of the clothes are distinct and the colours of the garments are intricate and elaborate. The smooth silk clothes depict that the boys come from a rich family.

A close-up image showing the beautiful clothes and the right hand is holding a toy.


Further magnification of the toy, probably a little doll, which the boy is holding. It is this little doll that the other boy wants to get.



Scattered on the ground are little toys of all sorts – a small trumpet, small cymbals, small balls, dolls, flowers, and some that cannot be identified.


The small wooden stool with a rattan-weave matt on top and four meticulously carved cleft feet is fine furniture for a rich family.

The fine stool


The taihu stone (太湖石) with luxuriant growth of bamboo behind further indicates the wealth of the family. Taihu stone is native to Lake Tai. These stones are very popular in gardens.

The taihu stone with bamboo


The bamboo fence in the foreground not only serves as decoration for the painting, but adds a sense of security for the children playing in the courtyard.

The bamboo fence


The painting is unsigned, undated and there is no inscription. It is believed that the painting was a typical Southern Song’s work similar to those of Su Hanchen (蘇漢臣)(1094-1172), a Southern Song painter famous for figure painting.


Bibliography (Su Hanchen- Children Playing in an Autumn Garden & Children at Play on a Winter Day)