Galloping Horses

Artist Xu Beihong and His Family in Mao’s China

Famous for his ink brush paintings of galloping horses, pioneering Chinese artist Xu Beihong (1895-1953) integrated Chinese and Western painting and mentored generations of Chinese artists. Galloping Horses describes how his family and legacy survived the turbulence of Mao’s ever-changing policies, which dictated the direction of art and music from 1949 through the devastating ten-year Cultural Revolution.

Xu Beihong’s daughter narrates this story of the Xu family, its tragedies, and the perseverance of Xu’s widow Liao Jingwen, keeper of her husband’s legacy for sixty years after his death. The author, a pianist and arts administrator, together with Xu Beihong’s son, an artist and art teacher, and their mother, with commitment and struggle, carried forward Xu’s legacy and accomplished his unfulfilled missions. The author describes her life and education as a music student in Mao Zedong’s China and her work as a professional musician in Jiang Qing’s model Peking opera.


Xu Fangfang takes her reader on a fascinating and at times troubling personal journey during this pivotal time in China’s history. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in 20th-century Chinese art or politics.

—Julie Segraves, Executive Director, The Asian Art Coordinating Council

Poignant and inspiring, Galloping Horses is a gripping record of the resourcefulness and unwavering determination shown by two courageous women in their efforts to preserve and share the legacy of one of China’s most important 20th-century painters, Xu Beihong.

—Robert E. Hegel 何谷理, Liselotte Dieckmann Professor of Comparative Literature, Professor of Chinese, Washington University in St. Louis

“It’s fortunate for artist Xu Beihong that he died before the Cultural Revolution,” was an assertion that puzzled me as a child. Galloping Horses explains this assertion. It is a must-read for readers interested in Chinese life under Mao as well as in this well-known artist and his family.   

—Qiu Xiaolong, internationally-best-selling author of the Inspector Chen series