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.
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.