In terms of historical significance, Zhang's original painting of the Along the River During the Qingming Festival reveals much about life in China during the 11th-12th century. Its myriad depictions of different people interacting with one another reveals the nuances of class structure and the many hardships of urban life as well. It also displays accurate depictions of technological practices found in Song China. For example, it depicts one river ship lowering its bipod mast before passing under the prominent bridge of the painting. It shows ships in two major types, yet all of which have slung rudders for steering; the painting depicts freighters with narrow sterns or passenger boats and smaller craft with broad sterns, sailing upriver or docked along the banks while loading and unloading goods. Large stern sweeps and bow sweeps can be seen on at least three of the river ships, worked by up to eight men each. It also shows how personal gardens had begun to take root in China—in addition to the immense walled garden on the far left of the scroll, for example, one sees several private gardens with their man-made mountains and rockery (for example, the small private garden close to the city gate, squeezed between a chemist's shop and a large building selling furniture, consisting of a small pond surrounded by trees and bamboo).
Panorama of Along the River During Qingming Festival, 12th century original by Zhang Zeduan