The Chinese art includes beautiful Chinese painting, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese architecture, Chinese pottery, Chinese sculpture, Chinese bronzes, Chinese jade carving, and other fine or decorative art forms produced in China over the centuries.
Chinese art traditions are the oldest art traditions in the world which are still in continuity. The Stone Age art in China dates back to 10,000 B.C.E., which includes simple pottery and sculptures. This ancient period was followed by a series of dynasties, most of which lasted for several hundred years. Through all the political and geological transformation across years, like changes in dynastic, political collapses, Mongol and Manchurian invasions, wars, and famines, Chinese art was preserved by scholars and nobles and adapted by each successive dynasty. The art of each dynasty can be differentiated by its unique characteristics and developments.
The earliest Chinese art form includes treasures like Jade carvings and cast bronzes. The origins of Chinese music and poetry can be seen in the Book of Songs, containing poems written between 1000 B.C.E. and 600 B.C.E.. The earliest examples of Chinese painting are wreckages of painting on silk, stone, and lacquer items dating to the Warring States period, which was from 481 B.C.E. to 221 B.C.E. Paper was invented during the first century C.E., which was later replaced by silk. During the Eastern Jin Dynasty (265–420)|, painting and calligraphy were highly appreciated arts in court circles. Both used brushes and ink on paper or silk. The earliest paintings were figure paintings, followed later by bird-and-flower paintings and landscapes. Chinese art is highly influenced by Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism.
The Chinese Dynasties in Chronology order
|S.No.||Chinese Dynasty||Time Period|
|1||Xia Dynasty||(2100-1700 BCE)|
|4||Qin Emperor and 3-year Dynasty||(221-206)|
|5||Han Dynasty||(206 BCE – 220 CE)|
|6||Six Dynasties Period||(220-589)|
|9||Five Dynasties Period||(907-60)|
Chinese Art – Characteristics
Chinese society has always emphasized great importance on understanding the pattern of nature and co-existing with it. Nature was perceived as the visible exhibition of God’s creativity, using the interaction of the yin (female) and yang (male) life forces. The main aim of Chinese art was centred on propitiation and sacrifice, which later turned into the expression of human understanding of these life forces, in a variety of art forms, like painting, pottery, and relief sculpture. The people of China also believed that the energy generated by an artist resonated closely with the ultimate source of that energy. They thought that art had the capacity to refresh the artist or to retard him spiritually.
Traditional Chinese Art Forms
The traditional art forms of China offer a fascinating peek into Chinese culture from hundreds of years ago, and are still practised even in today’s hyper-modern China. They are vastly different from the art styles of the west. Here, take a look at five major art forms in China:
1. Peking Opera – 京剧 (jīng jù)
Peking opera is one of the national treasures of China. It combines skilful singing, graceful acrobatics, elaborate colourful costumes, and soulful storytelling to create an unforgettable stage experience unlike any other. This was extremely popular during the Qing dynasty and is currently conserved as an art form throughout China and Taiwan. To a newcomer, Peking opera can be quite intimidating. But once you get the basic idea of it, the performance itself communicates stories that have been passed down for thousands of years in Chinese history.
In modern times, Peking opera has suffered a decline of viewership due to its inability to attract the modern audience. Additionally, it takes many years of difficult training from a young age to become a great Peking opera performer. However, the art form is very popular outside of China. Western fans have even come to China to learn the art of pecking opera, competing and performing in popular talent shows.
2. Chinese Zither – 古筝 (gǔ zhēng)
A Chinese Zither is a rectangular shaped harp, made of wood, and laid flat instead of standing up. It is a plucked musical string instrument dating from the warring states period. The musician presses the strings with his left hand and plucks the strings with his right hand, usually with picks attached to the tips of his fingers. The Chinese zither has been around for more than two thousand years and still hasn’t lost its relevance in music. Modern-day musicians are finding ways to incorporate the Chinese zither into rock, jazz, and even hip hop!
3. Shadow Puppet Shows – 皮影戏 (pí yǐng xì)
Chinese shadow puppet shows date back to the Han Dynasty when the emperor popularized these shows at his court. The puppets are made of leather, and the Chinese name literally means “leather,” “shadow,” and “play”. The puppeteer tells stories accompanied by music from a band of Chinese musical instruments. Shadow puppets are believed to be the oldest motion picture form of storytelling. In the famous 1994 film “To Live”, the main character of the movie was a shadow puppeteer.
4. Chinese Calligraphy – 书法 (shū fǎ)
Traditional Chinese calligraphy is completely different from the calligraphy you see on wedding invitations. The writing tools for Chinese calligraphy are different, unlike western calligraphy tools, which are ballpoint pens or markers. Chinese calligraphers use special brush pens made from the finest animal hair. Chinese calligraphy is still a highly respected and popular art form in the modern days. Many school children are sent to learn traditional calligraphy as an extracurricular activity in China.
5. Paper Cutting – 剪纸 (jiǎn zhǐ)
Chinese paper cutting is a lot like making regular craft cutout, but way more complex. Chinese artisans create entire landscapes and complicated characters out of paper and scissor. Popular shapes in the paper cutting include Chinese character meaning double happiness, as well as tigers, dragons, carps, the phoenix, and the twelve Chinese horoscopes.
The modern artists have created a visual language that embodies aspects of traditional Chinese art while responding to a time of great transition. Their artworks express beautiful beliefs, national pride, and international awareness. Chinese art forms are the treasured representation of china’s rich culture. From paintings and calligraphy to pottery and sculptures, Chinese art is immensely beautiful and pride of people of China.
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