10.2 Chinese Art

The Art of
Chapter 10.2
The Beginnings of
Chinese Civilization
The history of China is marked by the rise and fall of dynasties and kingdoms.
Recorded in the long history of China is a similar succession of dynasties, each
with it’s own unique problems and its own special contributions to art.
Chinese civilization is the oldest continuous culture in the world.
As it grew, its people gained skill and knowledge in many different fields.
Chinese accomplishments:
The compass
Printing with carved wood blocks
Early Bronze Vessels
 Skill in bronze casting was developed at an
early date in Chinese history
 Bronze vessels found in ancient graves
reveal that Chinese artisans had developed
these skills by the First Dynasty, also known
as the Shang Dynasty which began around
 Many of the early bronze vessels show
extraordinary technical mastery that
probably took centuries to master.
 The Chow Dynasty followed the Shang
Dynasty in 1030B.C. They produced little
change in art and gave way to the powerful
Han Dynasty in 206B.C.
Early Chinese Painting
 The art of painting is mentioned in
Chinese literature several
centuries before the birth of
 A women named Lei is mentioned
as the first Chinese painter
 Unfortunately no paintings have
survived from this period.
 Written reports tell us that
paintings of great skill and beauty
were created and appreciated.
The Arrival of Buddhism During
The Han Dynasty
 Near the end of the Han Dynasty, the religion of
Buddhism which originated in India, came to China.
 Had a great impact on how artists approached their
 Helped raise artists to a position of respect and
admiration in Chinese society.
 Chinese were the first to consider the painting of
pictures an honorable task and were highly regarded.
Standing Buddha Statue
Gilded Bronze
Bodhisattva - A person who had either
postponed death or made the decision to return
to the world for the purpose of bringing comfort
and offering guidance to the living.
One of the largest sculptures surviving from this
With a serene smile, he extends his open
hands in a sign of welcome and a promise of
peace that must have been reassuring and
calming to those who saw it.
Unlike ancient Greek sculptors, the Chinese did
not regard the body as a thing of beauty and
did not regard sculpture as an important art
This cause them to limit their sculptures to
religious portraits such as this sculpture.
The Importance of Meditation
Buddhism like other Eastern religions, places great
emphasis on meditation.
This emphasis has an important impact on Chinese
Meditation is the process of focusing one’s thoughts
on a single object or idea.
It allows one to experience completely the inherent
beauty or meaning of that object or idea.
Buddhist monks will remain motionless in meditation
for hours, or even entire days.
They may contemplate a leaf sagging from the weight
of raindrops, or the possible meanings of single
Chinese artists found meditation enabled them to
recognize beauty of a leaf, a tree, a rock, or a
mountain. They were then better prepared to capture
that beauty in their paintings.
Increased Concern for
Landscape Painting
 For more than a thousand years the figure
dominated in Chinese painting, just as in
the West.
 By the ninth century began seeing a bigger
appreciation for nature and by the eleventh
century this trend was complete.
 While western artists continued to focus on
people, artists in China preferred to
concentrate on nature and landscape
 To gain the knowledge and skills of
Chinese painting, artists spent years
copying earlier artists but were also
expected to add their own touches.
Scroll Painting
 Earliest Chinese paintings to have survived over
time are hanging scrolls and horizontal scrolls, or
hand scrolls.
 Scroll – a long roll of illustrated parchment or silk
and were designed to be rolled and easy to store
 When their owners were in the mood for quiet
reflection they took them out, like taking a book
from a shelf to read.
 Unrolling the scroll section by section allowed the
viewer to journey from scene to scene
The End of the Han Dynasty
 The culture of the Han Dynasty rivaled that of the Roman Empire, which
was flourishing at the same time in history.
 The Han Dynasty extended over a 400 year period, the second longest in
Chinese history.
 A series of weak emperors brought the Han Empire to an end.
 There followed a period, beginning at the close of the third century AD in
which China was divided into a number of small states.
 None of the states were stone enough to conquer the others and finally
restore a unified empire.
 After a period chaos, a new dynasty, the Tang dynasty assumed control and
ruled for nearly 300 years.
The Powerful Tang Dynasty
 China reached a peak of
power and influence.
 People enjoyed prosperity.
 The army expanded the
boarders of the empire.
 Foreign trade increased
 Buddhism grew in strength
Night-Shining White
Han Gan
c. 742-56
Tang Dynasty
Handscroll – Ink on paper
 Horses were highly prized by the Chinese.
 The emperor Ming Huang was said to own more than 40,000.
 The hand scroll shows one of his favorite horses rearing against the
tether that binds him to the post.
 The many inscriptions are written approvals from collectors
expressing their approval of the artwork. This can be found on many
Chinese paintings and adds it’s own ornamentation.
Use of Line
 One of the chief measures in excellence in Chinese painting
throughout its long history is the quality of the brush line, which can
be seen in the painting Night-Shining White.
 A delicate use of line is combined with subtle value gradations to
give the animal a realistic appearance.
 This work demonstrates that the artist knew his subject well a
applied his knowledge effectively to his art.
The Stable Sun Dynasty
Following the collapse of the Tang dynasty in
906, China experienced a period of confusion.
Finally in 960 reunification was experienced
under the Sung dynasty.
The rule of this dynasty was a period of stability
that produced great artists whose work has been
admired for centuries.
The Production of Porcelain
 During the Sung dynasty the
production of porcelain had reached
new heights.
 Porcelain – a fine grained, high
quality form of china and is made
from primarily white clay
 Relatively rare and can only be
found in a few places in China.
Europe, England, and North America
 After the vessel is made it is fired in
a kiln to a very high temperature. It
is then coated with a glaze for color
and then fired once more.
The Water and Moon Guanyin Bodhisattva
Sung Dynasty
Wood with Paint
 Depicts a Bodhisattva figure traditionally
associated with mercy and compassion.
 Relaxed attitude associated with Sung dynasty.
 Prayers to this Buddha-to-be were answered in the
form of protection against any possible misfortune.
 Figure is resting a moss covered ledge, which
contrasts with the splendid garments and jewels.
 Calm, gentle, and smiling, the figure offers no
threat to those who approach.
 The direct gaze encourage viewers that the
Bodhisattva is only concerned with them.
Landscape Painting
 Sung dynasty was known for its
great landscape artists.
 Claimed that the value of landscape
painting lay in its capacity to to
make viewers feel as if they were
really in the place pictured.
 Clearing Autumn Skies over
Mountains and Valleys, the artist
invites you to journey beneath the
trees of a mountain landscape.
 As you unroll the scroll you can
journey through the forest of
towering pines, pause beside the
flowing stream, and gaze up and the
misty mountains.
Use of Multiple Vanishing Points
 Unlike Western paintings, Chinese art makes use of different vanishing
 Vanishing Point – used in perspective drawing, a point at which
receding parallel lines seem to converge.
 As you unroll the scroll the perspective shifts and makes you feels as if
you are indeed traveling through the image.
 Every opportunity is provided for you to stop and examine natural
beauty, like flower heavy with dew or a butterfly on a flower.
 Nothing to distract you from quiet contemplation or meditation.
 Even shadows are eliminated so that they don’t interfere with efforts to
enjoy the painting.
Traditional Western Perspective Drawing
with a Vanishing Point
One Point Perspective
Two Point Perspective
The End of the Sung Dynasty
In 1224 Genghis Khan and his powerful Mongol army swept into
northwest China, bringing an end to the Sung Dynasty and a start t
foreign rule in China
Kublai Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson, took over control of the country
and established the Yuan dynasty.
Artists such as Qian Xuan, painted scenes of a familiar Chinese theme,
the quiet contemplation of nature.
Wang-His-Chih Watching Geese
c. 1295
Ink, color, and gold on paper
9.5 x 36.5 inches
Twin Pines, Level Distance
Zhao Meng-Fu
Ink on Paper
Painting was only started after a great amount of time was meditating on the subject.
Practices his skills at representing nature for many years before actually painting the final
picture. He would carefully study the paintings of earlier masters rather than studying
Only when his skills were perfected did he attempt to create a painting based on his own
response to the natural world.
Artworks like this were not done to tell a story, teach a lesson, or decorate a home. They
were intended to inspire in the viewer the same thoughts that the artist had while creating
the image.
Use of the Elements and Principles
What is NOT in the painting is as important as what you DO see. Most of the painting
is simply left blank.
Unity – The landscape has been reduced to its barest essentials.
Space – The twin peaks rise in the foreground to give a strong sense of space in the
Line – A few lines depict the hills in the distance and draw your attention to the
expanse of the work.
Emphasis – The artist shows concentration and confidence with the emphasis placed
on each brushstroke.
The Art of the Ming Dynasty
 Followed the collapse of the Yuan dynasty in
 Signified the end of foreign rule in China and
the beginning of a new dynasty, the Ming
 A time in which artists sought to restore the
glories of the past.
 Painting = nature scenes of great beauty
were done on silk and paper and continued
traditions from the past
 Ceramics = a range of new styles and
techniques were developed like the use of
cobalt blue glazes on Chinese porcelain
Decline of the Ming Dynasty
 Tribes from Manchuria conquered China in 1644.
 End of the Ming dynasty and start of the Ching dynasty which
continued until 1912.
 Manchu rulers were determined to make the Chinese culture part of
their own.
 Chinese painting experienced a decline during this time.
 Porcelain production fared better than painting and many fine works
were produced.
 Unfortunately due to warfare and rebellion the 19th century resulted
in the destruction of most kilns and the flight of talented artists.
Vocab & Quiz Review
 Porcelain – a fine grained, high quality form of china and is made
from primarily white clay
 Bodhisattva - A person who had either postponed death or made
the decision to return to the world for the purpose of bringing
comfort and offering guidance to the living.
 Scroll – a long roll of illustrated parchment or silk and were
designed to be rolled and easy to store
 Vanishing Point – used in perspective drawing, a point at which
receding parallel lines seem to converge.

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