The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Chinese Art from the Sui to the Yuan Dynasties, C. 589–1368

What is the difference between a handscroll, a hanging scroll, and an album leaf?

A handscroll is a roll of paper or silk that is unfurled to reveal text and painted images. Handscrolls are kept rolled up when not being viewed. Cinematic in nature, the images are presented piece by piece as the viewer works his or her way through the handscroll. Though usually around a foot long, handscrolls can vary in length. Xia Gui’s thirteenth-century handscroll titled, Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains, is nearly thirty feet long!

Unlike a handscroll, a hanging scroll can be seen all in one viewing and is displayed on a wall, though not permanently. Even though hanging scrolls can be rather large, they were not intended for large public spaces, but for smaller, private viewings.

An album is essentially a book of paintings, usually of similar subject matter. An individual painting is called a leaf.


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