The Art of
China
Chapter 10.2
The Beginnings of
Chinese Civilization
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The history of China is marked by the rise and fall of dynasties and kingdoms.
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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:
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The compass
Paper
Porcelain
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
1766BC.
 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
Christ.
 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
work.
 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
55x19in
477A.D.

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
period

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
form

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
art.

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
words.

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
painting.
 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
95x65in
 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
points.
 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
Qian-Xuan
c. 1295
Handscroll
Ink, color, and gold on paper
9.5 x 36.5 inches
Twin Pines, Level Distance
Zhao Meng-Fu
c.1310
Ink on Paper
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Painting was only started after a great amount of time was meditating on the subject.
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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
nature.
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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
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What is NOT in the painting is as important as what you DO see. Most of the painting
is simply left blank.
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Unity – The landscape has been reduced to its barest essentials.
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Space – The twin peaks rise in the foreground to give a strong sense of space in the
landscape.
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Line – A few lines depict the hills in the distance and draw your attention to the
expanse of the work.
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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
1368.
 Signified the end of foreign rule in China and
the beginning of a new dynasty, the Ming
dynasty.
 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.