Sharing the Beauty of China: Chinese Painting

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Traditional Chinese painting was fundamentally an abstract art form. Although there were no absolute abstract Chinese paintings in its original meaning, objects in a painting were not a direct copy of the nature world following the principle of perspective. It was rather a combination or harmony between the nature world and human emotion, a product of “heaven (nature) and human”. The effect Chinese painters would like to illustrate in their paintings was not a visual effect of colors and patterns as their Western counterparts would like to achieve. The description of objects in their paintings was no means accurate and few concerned about such factors as colors, principle of perspective, anatomy, surface feel, and relative size. What they would like to achieve was a world in their mind of non materials. The nature world was not an object for them to make a true copy and it was rather elements for them to build their own world. 

About Author

Lin Ci, original name Zhang Qian, graduated from the Zhejiang Academy of Art and China Art Research Institute, where he earned an M.A. degree. He was a research fellow with China Art Research Institute, specializing in art history and visual arts. His major books include Accordion Pleated Skirts, Gospel Valley, and Mango Trees.

Table of Contents
From Gu Kaizhi to Wu Daozi
Tomb Chamber Paintings
The Most Romantic Painting
“Communication of the Soul”
Spring Outing (You-Chun Tu)
Emperors of Great Prosperity
Another Figure Painting
“The Painting Saga”
Famous Paintings Record of Past Dynasties (Li-dai Ming-hua Ji)
Desert Treasures
Buddhism Going East
Dunhuang Mogao Caves
Lucid Mountains and Remote Streams
Northern Painters and Southern Painters
Song Huizong and his period
Along the River During the Qingming Festival (Qingming Shanghe Tu)
Panorama Shanshui
Su Shi and Mi Fu
Scholar Paintings
Zhao Mengfu and “Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty”
Plum Blossom, Orchid, Bamboo and Stone
“The Southern and Northern Sects”
“Four Monks” and “Four Wangs”
The End of Scholar Paintings and Famous Chinese Painters of Modern Times
Modern Chinese Paintings
Painters Studying Abroad
Revolutionary Realism
“Modern” and “Post-Modern”
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Sample pages of Sharing the Beauty of China: Chinese Painting (ISBN:9787508540160) Sample pages of Sharing the Beauty of China: Chinese Painting (ISBN:9787508540160) Sample pages of Sharing the Beauty of China: Chinese Painting (ISBN:9787508540160)

Yellow River is the cradle of Chinese Civilizations. On the fertile lands along this mother River, tribes settled, clans formed, civilization developed and art emerged. Chinese painting can be dated back to prehistoric times and the earliest paintings of art were found on pottery pieces unearthed from several early civilizations in the Yellow River Valley. For example, Yangshao Civilization around 5000–3000 BC was a great and influencial society with its geographic area reaching today’s Hubei Province to the south and Mongolia to the north and was a civilization in a transition period from matriarchal to patriarchal society. Cultivation and agriculture were already extensively used by this civilization. Fine pottery pieces unearthed demonstrated a unique characteristic of their own. The colorful pottery of Majiayao Civilization of early Neolithic time in the upper region of the River around 3000–2000 BC was considered to be the finest in that period and had achieved unprecedented level of sophistication. Another important civilization was Dawenkou Civilization, which was in the lower region of the River around 4300-2500 BC and a typical society in late period of Neolithic time. Collectively they are called color pottery civilizations and many pottery pieces unearthed from the sites associated them have remarkable and colorful paintings and patterns. Composition of the paintings includes human figures, fishes and insects, birds and animals, flowers and plants, and abstract patterns. The advancement of ceramic pottery laid the foundation for the development of bronze civilization and perhaps foretold the arrival of porcelain pottery. Ceramic, bronze and porcelain were all the important carriers of the new art form, paintings. However paintings were only used to decorate their carriers. Artists were anonymous and many of them were tribe women who just settled. Even in bronze and porcelain periods, artists were still craft painters and they were very low in their social rankings. It was very difficult to make a name in history books even for those with finest skills and who served in the imperial court. n
During the Sui (581–618 AD) and the Tang (618 –907 AD) Dynasties, a system of official examination was developed to select mandarins to serve the empires. Therefore a culture elite class was formed from the early stages of Chinese imperial history. Their ultimate aim was to do the examination well, to be selected and therefore to become a mandarin in order to achieve their political ambitions. In order to reach this ultimate goal they had to read and write thoroughly and extensively in order to become a cultured person and “gentleman” and also to be successful for the examination. Painting and poetry training was a very important part in this endeavour. The greatest Chinese philosopher and scholar, Confucius, said to his fellow students: “ambition must come from truth (the way); based on integrity; exercised through kindness; expressed through arts.” This illustrated that integrity, kindness, and art were an integral part of a true greatness. He also said: “scholar can not be without truth.” and “artistic skill is the nearest equivalent to the truth.” This demonstrated a logical and underlining similarity between seeking the truth in a spiritual world and practicing a skill in an artistic field. The practice of art had been elevated to resemble the spiritual process of seeking the truth. For them art training was not a simple task just to command a skill but it was a mean to approach the way or the truth.
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Sharing the Beauty of China: Chinese Painting