Chinese characters evolved from pictures and signs, and the Chinese art of calligraphy developed naturally from its unique writing system. Every dynasty had its great calligraphers, whose calligraphic styles became symbolic of their times, and the Chinese people's love of calligraphy has been handed down to the present day.
Different from Western painting, traditional Chinese painting is characterized by unique forms of expression. Its roots can be traced back to paintings on Neolithic pottery some 6,000 years ago. Since similar tools and lines were used for the earliest painting and writing, painting is said to have the same origin as calligraphy. Chinese paintings also include poetry or calligraphy, thus the three are integrated, giving people a richer aesthetic enjoyment. Figure, landscape, and flower-and-bird paintings are important traditional Chinese painting genres, still highly valued today.
Contemporary Chinese painting and calligraphy are still very active. The China Art Gallery and other art galleries hold individual or joint art exhibitions year in year out and exhibitions of traditional Chinese paintings have been held in Japan, the Republic of Korea, the US, Canada, and Europe. Chinese artists have also made remarkable progress in Western-style oil painting, woodcut and watercolor and many have created works that combine traditional Chinese with Western painting techniques, adding splendor to both forms. Modern art utilizing modern materials, formats, framework and techniques also occupies a place in the art world. New media art works, including video, digital, animated and audio art, are frequently represented in domestic and overseas exhibitions of modern art.
With the development of the artworks auction industry, China's galleries have gradually caught up with international practice in recent years. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou take turns to host an annual art exposition, adding a new channel for the trade of artworks; of these the Shanghai Art Exposition boasts the greatest variety of artworks of any in Asia.