The roots of Chinese painting can be traced back to paintings on Neolithic pottery, such as figures of fish, frogs, deer, birds, flowers, tree leaves and dances, 6,000-7,000 years old. The earliest Chinese characters were pictographs. Since similar tools and lines were used for the earliest painting and writing, painting is said to have the same origin as calligraphy. Thus, Chinese painting has an outstanding characteristic, that is to say, poetry or calligraphy are inscribed on paintings so that the three are integrated, giving people a keener enjoyment of beauty. 

Liaoning Art Gallery.

Many ancient Chinese paintings were executed on walls or decorative screens. Today, murals can be seen in the tombs of the Han, Tang and other dynasties. Gu Kaizhi, a famous painter of the Jin Dynasty, was good at presenting historical themes. His painting The Nymph of the Luo River portrayed poet Cao Zhi’s meeting with the goddess. The Tang and Song dynasties were the golden age of Chinese painting. The Tang painter Wu Daozi, called the “Sage Painter,” was an expert at figure and landscape painting. Riverside Scenes at the Qingming Festival, a genre painting of significant historical value done by the Northern Song Dynasty painter Zhang Zeduan, depicts the bustling scene in the then capital during the festival. The Tang painters Li Sixun and Li Zhaodao, who were father and son, used mineral substances as pigment to paint landscape paintings, which were called “magnificent landscapes.” Wang Wei practiced watercolor painting with vigorous strokes depicting floating clouds and flowing water. Flower-and-bird painting is also an important traditional Chinese painting genre.

Contemporary painters have specialties. Some only paint figures of ladies, and some only paint animals, or even one kind of animal, such as cats, donkeys, or horses. As a result, the more they paint, the better their paintings become.

The Chinese painting world is very active. The China Art Gallery and other art galleries hold individual or joint art exhibitions year in, year out. Also, exhibitions of traditional Chinese paintings have been held in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Different from Western oil paintings, traditional Chinese painting attracts foreign virtuosos and collectors with its Eastern artistic beauty.

China has also made great progress in Western-style painting, such as oil painting, woodcut, and water colors. Many Chinese painters have created works that combine traditional Chinese painting techniques with those of the West, adding splendor to Chinese painting.



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Last updated: 2000-07-13.