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Chinese Art. Chapter 7 . Figure 7-1 Yangshao Culture vases, from Gansu Province, China, mid third millennium BCE. Earthenware. Chinese Art. Divided into historical periods named after their families.

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chinese art

Chinese Art

Chapter 7

figure 7 1 yangshao culture vases from gansu province china mid third millennium bce earthenware
Figure 7-1Yangshao Culture vases, from Gansu Province, China, mid third millennium BCE. Earthenware
chinese art1
Chinese Art
  • Divided into historical periods named after their families.
  • These families united blood and tradition, formed dynasties and their impact on the culture has been enormous.
  • The 1st ruler of a united China was Emperor Shih Huangdi (Qin Dynasty)
  • Reigned in the 3rd century BCE
emperor shih huangdi
Emperor Shih Huangdi
  • Unified China politically
  • Responsible codifying written Chinese, standardized weights and measures, established a uniform currency.
  • Started the Great Wall and began his royal tomb
army of emperor shi huangdi
Army of Emperor Shi Huangdi

Army of the First Emperor of Qin in pits next to his burial mound, Lintong, China, Qin dynasty, ca. 210 BCE. Painted terracotta, average figure 5’ 10 7/8” high.

army of emperor shi huangdi1
Army of Emperor Shi Huangdi
  • About 8K terracotta warriors
  • 100 wooden chariots
  • 2 bronze chariots
  • 30,000 weapons buried as part of the tomb
  • Soldiers are 6’ tall – some fierce, proud, confident, taller than the average person of the time
army of emperor shi huangdi2
Army of Emperor Shi Huangdi
  • Representation of a Chinese army marching into the next world.
  • Daoism seen in the individualization of each soldier
  • Originally painted
  • Discovered in 1974
chinese philosophies dominate the aspects of chinese art from conception to execution
Chinese Philosophies-dominate the aspects of Chinese Art from conception to execution!!



Confucius (551-479 CE) philosopher.

Wrote about behavior, relationships, and duty in a series of orders called The Analects.

System of mutual respect – the ideal man whose attributes include – loyalty, morality, generosity, and humanity.

RESPECT from traditional values!

  • “the Way” religious journey in which, allows the pilgrim to wander to meaningfully self-expression.
  • Laozi (604-531 CE) philosopher – escaping society’s pressures, working toward oneness with nature.
  • Emphasizes individual expression, and embrace the philosophy of doing unto others.
  • Yin & Yang opposites flow into one another.
innovations in chinese architecture
Innovations in Chinese Architecture
  • The design of the stupa, a Buddhist structure associated with India, moved eastward to with missionaries along the Silk Road, transforming itself into the Pagoda.
  • Built for a scared purpose, vertical design –
  • Substantial height, repetition of forms.

Foguang Si Pagoda, Yingxian, China, Liao Dynasty, 1056.


Plan and cross-section of Foguang Si Pagoda, Yingxian, China, Liao Dynasty, 1056. (after L. Liu)

characteristics of chinese architecture
Characteristics of Chinese Architecture
  • Courtyard style residence- kept the outside world away and framed an atrium where the family resided.
  • Elders were to be honored and lived in a suite of rooms on the warmer northern end (Confucian guide).
  • Children lived in wings, servants in the south end.
  • Southeast functioned as an entrance, southwest was the lavatory.
characteristics of chinese painting
Characteristics of Chinese Painting
  • Albums, leaves, fans, murals, and scrolls.
  • Hand scroll, horizontal, read right to left.
  • Starts with the title, main scene and ends with the colophon panel (commentary)
  • Often use paper but SILK has been used for color and texture.
  • Hanging scroll – main scene on the front and the title on the top back.

Attributed to YAN LIBEN, Emperor Xuan and attendants, detail of The Thirteen Emperors, Tang dynasty, ca. 650. Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, detail: 1‘ 8 1/4” X 1’ 5 1/2”; entire scroll, 17’ 5” long. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


LIANG KAI, Sixth Chan Patriarch Chopping Bamboo, Southern Song period, early thirteenth century. Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 2’ 5 1/4” high. Tokyo National Museum.

chinese porcelain
Chinese Porcelain
  • Ceramic made of clay – fired it is hard, white, brittle and shiny.
  • Vase shapes –with creative designs have the appearance of utilitarian – BUT stand alone.
  • Glazing protected the ware.
characteristics of chinese sculpture
Characteristics of Chinese Sculpture
  • Created large and small sculpture
  • Bi with Dragons (Zhou Dynasty) circular jade disk with round center perhaps symbolizing heaven
  • Dragons = good luck and rain
  • Hard jade surface with finely carved raised spirals

Bi (disk), from Jincun(?), China, Eastern Zhou dynasty, fourth to third century BCE. Nephrite, 6 1/2” in diameter. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

seated buddha
Seated Buddha
  • Rock carving of 45’ Buddha
  • Buddha iconography – top knot on head, long ears, sits in the lotus position, tightly fitted garments.
  • Central Asian influence – huge shoulders and pleated drapery
  • Indian influence in the face
  • Gentle smile.

Vairocana Buddha, disciples, and bodhisattvas, Longmen Caves, Luoyang, China, Tang dynasty, completed 675. Buddha, approx. 44’ high.


Shakyamuni Buddha, Zhao Dynasty, Period of Disunity, 338. Gilded bronze, 1’ 3 1/2” high. Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco (Avery Brundage Collection).


Vocabulary to know!

Do Now!

Consider the enormous authority necessary to construct Emperor Shi Huangdi’s burial pit. What do its artifacts indicate about his wealth and power?

Identify the specific visual qualities of Chinese painting.

  • Bi
  • Colophon
  • Confucianism
  • Daoism
  • Pagoda
  • Porcelain
  • Yin & Yang