The loyalist painter Gong Kai (1222–1307) utilized the historical literary trope of the ji 驥 horse, the fine steed capable of covering one thousand li in a day, as an essential part of his artistic rhetoric in response to the violent Song-Yuan dynastic turn. Drawing literary forebears of Gong's equine art into the field of investigation reveals the mechanics of his utilization of the equine trope and his stance within the broad spectrum of Song loyalism. Standing against passive sympathizers of the loyalist cause, Gong embraced the poetics of Daoxue (Learning of the Way) to uphold moral rigor and masculine heroics, couched metaphorically in the suffering ji horse, which was at once physiognomically ideal and metaphysically meaningful. The polysemy and ambiguity of Gong's art invited his colleagues to interiorize equine imagery, thus helping reconstitute an ideal moral image of themselves. Gong's equine art brought forth interactive responses from its viewers and thus served as an improvised memorial to Song loyalists, both living and deceased.

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