Gai Qi (Chinese: 改琦; 1774–1829), courtesy name Bowen 伯蕰, art names Qiliang 七郎 and Yuhu Waishi 玉壶外史, was a poet and painter born in western China during the Qing dynasty. As an artist, he was active in Shanghai. In painting his works mainly concerned plants, beauty, and figures. However he also did numerous landscapes. In poetry he preferred the rhyming ci form and added such poems to his paintings.
His social circle included prominent literati as well as artists. He organized both a literary society and a Buddhist lay society. His work often used a delicate baimiao (outline) style, which can be clearly see in his illustrations for Dream of the Red Chamber. The illustrations are chiefly portraits of the main characters in the novel. Numerous poets, including the renowned woman poet Zhou Qi, wrote poems to accompany the illustrations.
The scholar Wang Qisun 王岂孙 commissioned Gai Qi to paint an album of famous Chinese women, both historical and legendary. Wang's second wife, Cao Zhenxiu wrote poems about the women and did the calligraphy in the album. Gai took as a student the talented woman painter and poet Qian Shoupu 錢守璞 (ca. 1801-1869). He was associated with the painter Fei Danxu in what has been called the "Gai Fei" school. Gai's grandson continued the tradition of the Gai Fei school, along with descendants of Fei Danxiu. He is perhaps best known today for the Hongloumeng tiyong, a book of portraits of characters in Dream of the Red Chamber accompanied by poems about the characters. The book was based on paintings done by Gai Qi, but was not published until 1884, long after its death. The book is still in print.
- Latter days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, edited by Marsha Weidner et al. Honolulu, University of Hawai'i Press, 1994. p.386.
- Ellen Widmer, The Beauty and the Book: Women and Fiction in Nineteenth Century China Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard East Asia Center, 2006, pp.148-151. Widmer translates some of the poems by Zhou Qi
- Hidden Meanings of Love and Death in Chinese Painting: Selections from the Marilyn and Roy Papp Collection. Edited by Chun-yi Lee. (Phoenix: Phoenix Art Museum, 2013)discussed the album and reproduces six of the plates,pp.36-42.
- Ellen Widmer, "Considering a Coincidence: The 'Female Reading Public' Circa 1828," in Writing and Materiality in China: Essays in Honor of Patrick Hanan edited by Judith T. Zeitlin and Lydia H. Liu. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard East Asia Center, 2003, pp.387-88.
- Zhongguo lidai shinü huaji 中國歷代仕女畫集 (A collection of paintings of women through the ages) edited by Guo Xueshi 郭学是 and Zhang Zikang. 张子康 (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin meishu chubanshe and Shijiazhuang: Hebei jiaoyu chubanshe, 1998), pp.10-11.
- Chinese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum Oxford(45) Oxford ISBN 1-85444-132-9
- China on-site
- Zhongguo lidai shinü huaji 中國歷代仕女畫集 (A collection of paintings of women through the ages) edited by Guo Xueshi 郭学是and Zhang Zikang. 张子康 (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin meishu chubanshe and Shijiazhuang: Hebei jiaoyu chubanshe, 1998).
- Hidden Meanings of Love and Death in Chinese Painting: Selections from the Marilyn and Roy Papp Collection. Edited by Chun-yi Lee. (Phoenix: Phoenix Art Museum, 2013), esp. pp. 36–42.