Portraits of Periodical Offering

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The Portraits of Periodical Offering (Chinese: 职贡图 /職貢圖 pinyin=zhigongtu), were official historical paintings (with illustration on each of the portrait) used in the Chinese dynasties. These paintings were official historical documents. The phrase roughly translated to "duty offering pictorial". Throughout Chinese history, kingdoms and tribes conquered by Chinese forces were required to send ambassadors to the imperial court of China periodically and pay tribute with valuable gifts (贡品 gongbin).

Drawings and paintings with short descriptions were used to record the expression of these ambassadors and to a lesser extent to show the cultural aspects of these ethnic groups. These historical descriptions beside the portrait became the equivalent of documents of diplomatic relations with each country. The drawings were reproduced in woodblock printing after the 9th century and distributed among the bureaucracy in albums. The Portraits of Periodical Offering of Imperial Qing by Xie Sui (谢遂), completed in 1751, gives verbal descriptions of outlying tribes as far as the island of England in Western Europe.

The Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang with descriptions on the back of each ambassador, 6th century painting in the National Museum of China.

The Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang by the Emperor Yuan of Liang Xiao Yi, dated to the 6th century, is the earliest surviving of these specially significant paintings. The original of the work was lost, and the only surviving edition of this work was a copy from the 11th century, which is currently preserved at the National Museum of China. The work originally consisted of twenty five portraits of ambassadors from their respectively country, by the time of Song Dynasty some portraits were already missing, and the current version consist only about twelve of them.

The envoys from right to left: Uar (Hephthalites); Persia; Baekje; Qiuci; Wo (Japan); Langkasuka; Dengzhi (邓至) (Qiang) ethnic from Ngawa; Zhouguke (周古柯), Hebatan (呵跋檀), Humidan (胡密丹), Baiti (白題, of similar Hephthalite stocks), who dwell close to Hephthalite; Mo (Qiemo).

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