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Early Chinese Art. Philosophy permeates fine art…. China has size of Europe Most populated country Many languages & ethnic groups Ruled by dynasties. Neolithic Art in China. Neolithic pottery cultures existed in China Yangshao culture 5000 BCE

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early chinese art

Early Chinese Art

Philosophy permeates fine art…..


China has size of Europe

Most populated country

Many languages & ethnic groups

Ruled by dynasties


Neolithic Art in China

Neolithic pottery cultures existed in China

Yangshao culture

5000 BCE

Advanced pottery techniques with kiln, wheel, and glazing

Markings may be early writing


CONGS were used in Neolithic Chinese tombs….

Liangzhu culture, half human, half animal images over 5000 years old

CONG was used in burials and found in ancient tombs

Sophisticated jade carving techniques

Jade is very hard and difficult to carve

Image of face is often called a TAOTIE.


Bronze Age - Piece Mold Casting & Lost Wax

bronze bells from the Zhou dynasty, 433 BCE

  • Three bronze age Dynasties,: Xia, Shang, Zhou
  • Zhou dynasty was a feudal society (took over warrior society of Shang)
  • Bells sounded 2 tones, scale in a variety of registers
  • Philosophers arose during this age - Confucius, Laozi, Mozi
emperor shih huangdi 210 bce
Emperor Shih Huangdi, 210 BCE
  • 1st ruler of united China - Hin/Qin dynasty
  • Codified written Chinese
  • Established uniform currency
  • Started famous Great Wall of China
  • Began his majestic tomb (SOLDIERS)
  • Insisted on govt based on accomplishments rather than family connections


  • Discovered in 1974
  • 6’ tall soliders
  • 8000 warriors, 100 chariots, 2 bronze chariots, 30,000 weapons
  • Tomb of 1st Emperor of China
  • Shi Huangdi
  • Daoism shown in individuality of shoulders despite numbers
  • Chinese army marching into the next world.

Soldiers (Army of Emp. Shi Huangdi, terra cotta, c 210 BCE, Qin Dynasty)


Soldiers were originally painted

Soldiers (Army of Emp. Shi Huangdi, terra cotta, c 210 BCE, Qin Dynasty)




Silk road was operational

Painted banner from the Han Dynasty, 160 BCE

Painted on silk, in tomb of Marquess of Dai

3 levels: heaven, earth & underworld

Heaven top of the T: dragons, deity with long serpent’s tail

Earth bottom part of T with deceased woman and attendants

Underworld is below

Reflects mythical beliefs later displaced by daoism confucioniam and buddhism


Chinese sculpture produced large scale sculptures such as the terra cotta army of Shi Huangdi, the Seated Buddha at Shanxi (cave) and this Seated Guanvin Bodhisattva.

Buddhist philosophy was incorporated into neo-confucianism, with respect for nature, harmony, and metaphysical beliefs.

Seated Guanvin Bodhisattva, wood with paint & gold, 95” x 65”, Liao dynasty 10-th-12th century CE


Seated Buddha, Stone carving, 45’ tall, 460 CE. flashcard

Shows Indian/Central Asian Buddhist iconography with large shoulders + slender body, lotus position, long ears, ushnishu, and peaceful smile.


Camel Carrying a Group of Musicians,flashcard

Tang Dynasty, 8th century CE

Earthenware w/ 3 color glaze, 26” high

China had control over Central Asia again during Tang dynasty

Fascination w/Turkic cultures .. Shows Turkish musicans with Han Chinese

Naturalism - new interest and trend in painting & sculpture

Beautiful 3 color glazes, spontaneous

Silk Road was flourishing, brought Chinese goods to West

Neoconfucianism= naturalism


Chinese Pagodas

  • Pagodas developed from Buddhist stupas; the design was brought from India via the Silk Road
  • Built for sacred purpose, each design is repeated vertically on each level, getting progressively smaller.
  • Japanese also developed pagodas

Great Wild Goose Pagoda


Ci’en Temple, Xi’an

Tang dynasty, 645 CE

Typical Chinese Buddhist pagoda

About 210’ tall (was taller, rebuilt during Ming dynasty after earthquake)


Forbidden City - flashcard, Beijing, China, Ming Dynasty (14th century), Hall of Supreme Harmony. Balance & symmetry, tradition Courtyard style emphasizing empty space with crowded spaces. Reflects Confucianism. Courtyard styles. Only royalty could enter-walled city 9000 buildings.


Forbidden City - Yellow roof tiles reserved for royalty. Red also royal color.

Dragon symbols appear.

Rooftops supported by duogang, used for Imperial buildings.

Today this is a museum and tourist attraction.

more about typical chinese architecture
More about typical Chinese architecture…
  • Exterior walls of a courtyard style residence
  • Frame an atrium for tranquility- Elders live in suite of rooms on warmer north end
  • Children leave in the wings
  • Courtyard on larger scale in Forbidden City
  • Wood structures, rectangular gride


  • Chinese calligraphy considered the highest art form.
  • Calligraphers have different styles and spend years perfecting the techniques.
  • Children learned to write first by copying ideographs
  • Confucius praised pursuit of knowledge & the arts; painting was to reflect moral concerns and calligraphy revealed the character of the writer
  • Some calligraphy cannot be read by modern Chinese readers, it is so artistically done
  • Literati - Confucian scholars- practiced this art form
  • Hand scrolls (Paintings) often have a label in calligraphy in the colophon section.

Portion of a letter by Wang Xizhi

Six Dynasties period,

mid 4th century CE

Feng Ju style -

‘walking” or semi cursive style fluid & graceful strokes, not too informal, but dynamic

chinese painting traditions
Chinese Painting Traditions
  • Fans, album leaves, and murals
  • Handscrolls on silk or cotton with dowels (meant to be unrolled and enjoyed, not hung on wall).. Read right to left.
  • Colophon - write comments or poetry
  • Hanging scrolls with main scene on front and title on top back
  • Same brushes used for painting & calligraphy
knight shining white tang dynasty 750 ce
Knight Shining White, Tang Dynasty, 750 CE
  • Original handscroll was about 12” wide
  • Now several feet with all enthusiastic descriptions, comments, poetry from readers
  • “Du Hua” to literally, READ a painting as a form of appreciation
  • Painters were highly valued; some Emperors becamse noted calligraphers and painters
  • Studied under appreentice ship system
knight shining white tang dynasty 750 ce1
Knight Shining White, Tang Dynasty, 750 CE
  • Aim of traditional painter was to capture not outer appearance but inner lenergy, apsirit. “DRAGON STEED”
  • Rejected color or too much background info
  • Pure line to define form, no opaque pigmanets “white painting”
The discipline required derived from calligraphy.
  • Traditionally, every literate person learned to write by copying Chinese ideographs.
  • Then gradually exposed to different stylistic interpretations of these characters.
  • Copied great calligraphers\' manuscripts, which were often preserved on carved stones so that rubbings could be made.

Detail of Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk, example of a Handscroll, ink & colors, Northern Song Dynasty, early 12th century.. Shows Confucian virtues- copy “honoring” original (lost) from Tang Dynasty


Landscape paintings highly prized in Chinese art.

  • Do not represent a particular forest, mountain, or view, but an artistic construct yielding a philosophical idea
  • Some parts of painting are empty & barren, others are crowded.. Yin/Yang of Daoism aka Taoism
  • This is an example of the empty space contrasted with calligraphy and densely detailed drawing

Travelers Among Mountains and Streams,

  • Fan Kaun
  • Northern Song Dynasty, 11th century CE
  • Hanging scroll, ink & colors on silk, 6’9” high
  • Subtly graded ink tones
  • Northern Song: fascination with precision and details as shown here.
  • Flashcard image - Northern Song painting

Example of Southern Song landscape handscroll…

Section of 12 Views from a Thatched Hut; 13th century CE, Xia Gui.

11” x 7’7” long


Dwelling in the Qinghian Mountains, 1617,

ink on paper, Ming Dynasty

Artist: Dong Qi Chang

Literati painters rejected traditional apprentice system run by the state…to pursue their own unique styles (contra Confucianism)

Dong Qi Chang famous literati painter, influenced by Daoism

Thick paces contrast with open areas - negative space implies clouds



Guan ware vases from the Song dynasty used crackled glazes to emphasize the simple symmetry of the form.

PORCELAIN - a Chinese specialty.

Fine, white clay fired at high temperature; Chinese perfected sophisticated glazing techniques


Jar, Ming dynasty, China

15th Century, 19”high

Xuande mark and period (1426-1435)

Porcelain painted in underglaze blue

Example of fine porcelain ware created during this period

Technically superior, thin walls, glazing



Korean Art

Crown from 6th century, gold with jade ornaments

arts of korea
Arts of Korea
  • Three Kingdoms period saw incredible metalwork - crown
  • High fired ceramics
  • Buddhist art; introduced to Korea in 4th century
  • Slender body, oval face Buddha

Bodhisattva Seated in Mediation, Bronze, 35” high, Three Kingdoms Period (early 7th century)


Seated Shakyamuni Buddha

Hands in bhumisparsha mudra (earth touching gesture of enlightement)

Granite, 11 feet high

Silla period, c 751

Modeled after cave temples of China


Korean artists also developed beautiful hanging silk scrolls, such as this seated willow-branch piece…

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Late 14th century, 62” high


Maebveong bottle,

13th century Korea

Celadon ware, 13” high

Bamboo and blossoming plum tree

Pale blue/green glaze over gray stoneware

Koreans learned celadon glazing from Chinese

Classical simplicity

Some incised designs

Not a flashcard but know what celadon ware is.