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Chinese art

Chinese art is art, whether modern or ancient, that originated in or is practiced in China or by Chinese artists or performers. Early so-called "stone age art" dates back to 6000 BC, mostly consisting of simple pottery and sculptures. This early period was followed by a series of art dynasties, most of which lasted several hundred years.


Historical development to 221 BC

Neolithic pottery

Early forms of art in China are found in the Neolithic Yangshao culture (仰韶文化), which dates back to the 6th millennium BC. Archeological findings such as those at Banpo have revealed that the Yangshao made pottery; early ceramics were unpainted and most often cord-marked. The first decorations were fish and human faces, but these eventually evolved into symmetrical-geometric abstract designs, some painted.

The most distinctive feature of Yangshao culture was the extensive use of painted pottery, especially human facial, animal, and geometric designs. Unlike the later Longshan culture, the Yangshao culture did not use pottery wheels in pottery-making. According to archaeologists, Yangshao society was based around matriarchal clans. Excavations have found that children were buried in painted pottery jars.

Jade culture

Main article: Liangzhu Jade culture

The Liangzhu Jade culture was the last Neolithic Jade culture in the Yangtse River delta and was spaced over a period of about 1,300 years. The Jade from this culture is characterized by finely worked large ritual jades such as Congs cylinders, Bi discs, Yue axes and also pendants and decorations in the form of chiseled open-work plaques, plates and representations of small birds, turtles and fish. The Liangzhu Jade has a white milky bone-like aspect due to its Tremolite rock origin and influence of water-based fluids at the burial sites.

Bronze casting

The Bronze Age in China began with the Shang Dynasty. The Shang are remembered for their bronze casting, noted for its clarity of detail. Shang bronzesmiths usually worked in foundries outside the cities to make ritual vessels, and sometimes weapons and chariot fittings as well. The bronze vessels were receptacles for storing or serving various solids and liquids used in the performance of sacred ceremonies. Some forms such as the ku and jue can be very graceful, but the most powerful pieces are the ding, sometimes described as having the an "air of ferocious majesty."

It is typical of the developed Shang style that all available space is decorated, most often with stylised forms of real and imaginary animals. The most common motif is the taotie, which shows a mythological being presented frontally as though squashed onto a horizontal plane to form a symmetrical design. The early significance of taotie is not clear, but myths about it existed around the late Zhou Dynasty. It was considered to be variously a covetous man banished to guard a corner of heaven against evil monsters; or a monster equipped with only a head who tries to devour men but hurts only himself.

The function and appearance of bronzes changed gradually from the Shang to the Zhou. They shifted from been used in religious rites to more practical purposes. By the Warring States Period bronze vessels had become objects of aesthetic enjoyment. Some were decorated with social scenes, such as from a banquet or hunt; whilst others displayed abstract patterns inlaid with gold, silver, or precious and semi-precious stones.

Shang bronzes became appreciated as works of art from the Song Dynasty, when they were collected and prized not only for their shape and design but also for the various green, blue green, and even reddish patinas created by chemical action as they lay buried in the ground. The study of early Chinese bronze casting is a specialised field of art history.

Early Chinese music

The origins of Chinese music and poetry can be gleamed in the Book of Songs, containing poems composed between 1000 BC and 600 BC. The text, preserved among the canon of early Chinese literature, contains folk songs, religious hymns and stately songs. Originally intended to be sung, the accompanying music unfortunately has since been lost. They had a wide range of purposes, including for courtship, ceremonial greeting, warfare, feasting and lamentation. The love poems are among the most appealing in the freshness and innocence of their language.

Early Chinese music was based on percussion instruments such as the bronze bell. Chinese bells were sounded by being struck from the outside, usually with a piece of wood. Sets of bells were suspended on wooden racks. Inside excavated bells are groves and marks of scraping and scratching made as they were tuned to the right pitch. Percussion instruments gradually gave way to string and reed instruments toward the Warring States period.

Significantly, the character for writing the word, music, (yue) was the same as that for joy (le). For Confucius and his disciples, music was important because it has the power to make people harmonious and well balanced or, conversely caused them to be quarrelsome and depraved. According to Xun Zi, music is as important as the li ("rites"; "etiquette") stressed in Confucianism. Mo Zi, philosophically opposed to Confucianism, disagreed. He dismissed music as having only aesthetic uses, and thus useless and wasteful.

Early Chinese Poetry

In addition to the Book of Songs (Shi Jing), a second early and influential poetic anthology was the Chuci (楚辭 Songs of Chu), made up primarily of poems ascribed to the semilegendary Qu Yuan (c. 340-278 BC) and his follower Song Yu (fourth century BC). The songs in this collection are more lyrical and romantic and represent a different tradition from the earlier Classic of Poetry (Shi Jing).

Chu and Southern Culture

A rich source of art in early China was the state of Chu, which developed in Yangtse River valley. Excavations of Chu tombs have found painted wooden sculptures, jade disks, glass beads, musical instruments, and an assortment of lacquerware. Many of the lacquer objects are finely painted, red on black or black on red. A site in Changsha, Hunan province, has revealed the world's oldest painting on silk discovered to date. It shows a woman accompanied by a phoenix and a dragon, two mythological animals to feature prominently in Chinese art.

An anthology of Chu poetry has also survived in the form of the Chu Ci, which has been translated into English by David Hawkes. Many of the works in the text are associated with Shamanism. There are also descriptions of fantastic landscapes, examples of China's first nature poetry. The longest poem "Encountering Sorrow," is reputed to have been written by the tragic Qu Yuan as a political allegory.

Early imperial China (221 BC – AD 220)

Qin sculpture

The Terracotta Army, inside the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, consists of more than 7,000 life-size tomb terra cotta figures of warriors and horses buried with the self-proclaimed first Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang) in 210-209 BC.

The figures were painted before being placed into the vault. The original colors were visible when the pieces were first unearthed. However exposure to air caused the pigments to fade so today the unearthed figures appear terracotta in color.

The figures are in several poses including standing infantry and kneeling archers as well as charioteers with horses. Each figure's head appears to be unique showing a variety of facial features and expressions as well as hair styles.


Porcelain is made from a hard paste comprised of the clay kaolin and a feldspar called petuntse, which cements the vessel and seals any pores. China has become synonymous with high-quality porcelain. Most china comes from the city of Jingdezhen in China's Jiangxi province.

Jingdezhen, under a variety of names, has been central to porcelain production in China since at least the early Han Dynasty.

The most noticeable difference between porcelain and the other pottery clays is that it 'wets' very quickly (that is, added water has a noticeably greater effect on the plasticity for porcelain than other clays), and that it tends to continue to 'move' for longer than other clays, requiring experience in handling to attain optimum results.

During medieval times in Europe, Porcelain was very expensive and in high demand for its beauty.

Han poetry

During the Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220), the Chu lyrics evolved into the fu (賦), a poem usually in rhymed verse except for introductory and concluding passages that are in prose, often in the form of questions and answers.

From the Han Dynasty onwards, a process similar to the origins of the Shi Jing produced the yue fu poems.

Han architecture

Period of division (220 – 581)

Influence of Buddhism

Main article: Buddhist_art#China

Buddhism arrived in China around the 1st century AD (although there are some tradition about a monk visiting China during Asoka’s reign), and through to the 8th century it became very active and creative in the development of Buddhist art, particularly in the area of statuary. Receiving this distant religion, China soon incorporated strong Chinese traits in its artistic expression.

In the fifth to sixth century the Northern Dynasties, rather removed from the original sources of inspiration, tended to develop rather symbolic and abstract modes of representation, with schematic lines. Their style is also said to be solemn and majestic. The lack of corporeality of this art, and its distance from the original Buddhist objective of expressing the pure ideal of enlightenment in an accessible, realistic manner, progressively led to a research towards more naturalism and realism, leading to the expression of Tang Buddhist art.

Secular culture


Historical record indicates Cao Cao was a brilliant ruler and poet. Cao Cao was also the father of the well known poets Cao Pi and Cao Zhi.

Cao Pi is known for writing the first Chinese poem using seven syllables per line (七言詩), the poem 燕歌行.

Cao Zhi demonstrated his spontaneous wit at an early age and was a front-running candidate of the throne; however, such ability was devoted to Chinese literature and poetry, which was encouraged by his father's subordinate officials. Later he surrounded himself with a group of poets and officials with literary interests, including some who continually showed off their smartness at the expense of Cao Cao and Cao Pi's subordinates and even Cao Cao himself.

Tao Qian's poetry influenced the work of many subsequent poets. Approximately 120 of his poems survive, which depict an idyllic pastoral life of farming and drinking.


In ancient Imperial China, painting and calligraphy were the most highly appreciated arts in court circles and were produced almost exclusively by amateurs, aristocrats and scholar-officials who alone had the leisure to perfect the technique and sensibility necessary for great brushwork. Calligraphy was thought to be the highest and purest form of painting. The implements were the brush pen, made of animal hair, and black inks made from pine soot and animal glue. Writing as well as painting, was done on silk. But after the invention of paper in the 1st century, silk was gradually replaced by the new and cheaper material. Original writings by famous calligraphers have been greatly valued throughout China's history and are mounted on scrolls and hung on walls in the same way that paintings are.

Wang Xizhi was a famous Chinese calligrapher who lived in the 4th century AD. His most famous work is the Lanting Xu, the preface of a collection of poems written by a number of poets when gathering at Lan Ting near the town of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province and engaging in a game called "qu shui liu shang".

Wei Shuo was a well-known calligrapher of Eastern Jin Dynasty who established consequential rules about the Regular Script. Her well-known works include Famous Concubine Inscription (名姬帖 Ming Ji Tie) and The Inscription of Wei-shi He'nan (衛氏和南帖 Wei-shi He'nan Tie).


Gu Kaizhi is a celebrated painter of ancient China born in Wuxi. He wrote three books about painting theory: "On Painting" (画论), "Introduction of Famous Paintings of Wei and Jin Dynasties" (魏晋胜流画赞) and "Painting Yuntai Mountain" (画云台山记). He wrote: "In figure paintings the clothes and the appearences were not very important. The eyes were the spirit and the decisive factor."

Three of Gu's paintings still survive today. They are "Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies", "Nymph of the Luo River" (洛神赋), and "Wise and Benevolent Women".

The Sui and Tang dynasties (581 – 960)

Main article: Tang Dynasty art

Buddhist architecture and sculpture

Following a transition under the Sui Dynasty, Buddhist sculpture of the Tang evolved towards a markedly life-like expression. As a consequence of the Dynasty's openness to foreign influences, and renewed exchanges with Indian culture due to the numerous travels of Chinese Buddhist monks to India from the 4th to the 11th century, Tang dynasty Buddhist sculpture assumed a rather classical form, inspired by the Indian art of the Gupta period.

However foreign influences came to be negatively perceived towards the end of the Tang dynasty. In the year 845, the Tang emperor Wu-Tsung outlawed all "foreign" religions (including Christian Nestorianism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism) in order to support the indigenous Taoism. He confiscated Buddhist possessions, and forced the faith to go underground, therefore affecting the ulterior development of the religion and its arts in China.

Most wooden Tang sculptures have not survived, though representations of the Tang international style can still be seen in Nara, Japan. Stone sculpture have proved of much great longevity. Some of the finest examples can be seen at Longmen, near Luoyang.

Golden age of Chinese poetry

Yue fu are Chinese poems composed in a folk song style. The term literally means "music bureau", a reference to the government organisation originally charged with collecting or writing the lyrics.

The lines are of uneven length, though five characters is the most common. Each poem follows one of a series of patterns defined by the song title. The term covers original folk songs, court imitations and versions by known poets.

From the 2nd century AD, the yue fu began to develop into shi - the form which was to dominate Chinese poetry until the modern era. The writers of these poems took the five character line of the yue fu and used it to express more complex ideas. The shi poem was generally an expression of the poet's own persona rather than the adopted characters of the yue fu; many were romantic nature poems heavily influenced by Taoism.

The term gushi ("old poems") can refer either to the first, mostly anonymous shi poems, or more generally to the poems written in the same form by later poets. Gushi in this latter sense are defined essentially by what they are not: i.e., they are not jintishi (regulated verse). The writer of gushi was under no formal constraints other than line length and rhyme (in every second line).

Jintishi, or regulated verse, developed from the 5th century onwards. By the Tang dynasty, a series of set tonal patterns had been developed, which were intended to ensure a balance between the four tones of classical Chinese in each couplet: the level tone, and the three deflected tones (rising, falling and entering). The Tang dynasty was the high point of the jintishi.

Notable poets from this era include Bai Juyi, Du Mu, Han Yu, Jia Dao, Li Qiao, Liu Zongyuan, Luo Binwang, Meng Haoran, Wang Wei, and Zhang Jiuling.

Li Po and Du Fu

Li Po and Du Fu both lived during the Tang Dynasty. They are regarded by many as the greatest of the Chinese poets.

Over a thousand poems are attributed to Li Po, but the authenticity of many of these is uncertain. He is best known for his yue fu poems, which are intense and often fantastic. He is often associated with Taoism: there is a strong element of this in his works, both in the sentiments they express and in their spontaneous tone. Nevertheless, his gufeng ("ancient airs") often adopt the perspective of the Confucian moralist, and many of his occasional verses are fairly conventional.

Much like Mozart, there exists many legends on how effortless Li Po composed his poetry, even (or some say, especially) when drunk; his favorite form is the jueju (five- or seven-character quatrain), of which he composed some 160 pieces. Using striking, unconventional imagery, Li Po is able to create exquisite pieces to utilize fully the elements of the language. His use of language is not as erudite as Du Fu's but equally effective, impressing through an extravagance of imagination and a direct connection of a free-spirited persona with the reader. Li Po's interactions with nature, friendship, and his acute observations of life inform his best poems. Some of the rest, like Changgan xing (translated by Ezra Pound as A River Merchant's Wife: A Letter), records the hardships or emotions of common people. Like the best Chinese poets, Li Po often evades translation.

Since the Song dynasty Du Fu has been called by critics the "poet historian". The most directly historical of his poems are those commenting on military tactics or the successes and failures of the government, or the poems of advice which he wrote to the emperor.

One of the Du Fu's earliest surviving works, The Song of the Wagons (c. 750), gives voice to the sufferings of a conscript soldier in the imperial army, even before the beginning of the rebellion; this poem brings out the tension between the need of acceptance and fulfilment of one's duties, and a clear-sighted consciousness of the suffering which this can involve.

Du Fu's work is notable above all for its range. He mastered all the forms of Chinese poetry: Chou says that in every form he "either made outstanding advances or contributed outstanding examples" (p. 56). Furthermore, his poems use a wide range of registers, from the direct and colloquial to the allusive and self-consciously literary. The tenor of his work changed as he developed his style and adapted to his surroundings ("chameleon-like" according to Watson): his earliest works are in a relatively derivative, courtly style, but he came into his own in the years of the rebellion. Owen comments on the "grim simplicity" of the Qinzhou poems, which mirrors the desert landscape (p. 425); the works from his Chengdu period are "light, often finely observed" (p. 427); while the poems from the late Kuizhou period have a "density and power of vision" (p. 433).

Late Tang poetry

Li Shangyin was a Chinese poet of the late Tang dynasty. He was a typical Late Tang poet: his works are sensuous, dense and allusive. The latter quality makes adequate translation extremely difficult. Many of his poems have political, romantic or philosophical implications, but it is often unclear which of these should be read into each work.

Li Yu was a Chinese poet and the last ruler of the Southern Tang Kingdom. His best-known poems were composed during the years after the Song formerly ended his reign in 975 and brought him back as a captive to the Song capital, Bianjing (now Kaifeng). Li's works from this period dwell on his regret for the lost kingdom and the pleasures it had brought him. He was finally poisoned by the Song emperor in 978.

Li Yu developed the ci by broadening its scope from love to history and philosophy, particularly in his later works. He also introduced the two stanza form, and made great use of contrasts between longer lines of nine characters and shorter ones of three and five.


Beginning in the Tang dynasty (618-907), the primary subject matter of painting was the landscape, known as shanshui (mountain-water) painting. In these landscapes, usually monochromatic and sparse, the purpose was not to reproduce exactly the appearance of nature but rather to grasp an emotion or atmosphere so as to catch the "rhythm" of nature.

Painting in the traditional style involved essentially the same techniques as calligraphy and is done with a brush dipped in black or colored ink; oils were not used. As with calligraphy, the most popular materials on which paintings are made are paper and silk. The finished work is then mounted on scrolls, which can be hung or rolled up. Traditional painting also is done in albums and on walls, lacquerwork, and other media.

Dong Yuan was an active painter in the Southern Tang Kingdom. He was known for both figure and landscape paintings, and exemplified the elegant style which would become the standard for brush painting in China over the next 900 years. As with many artists in China, his profession was as an official where he studied the existing styles of Li Sixun and Wang Wei. However, he added to the number of techniques, including more sophisticated perspective, use of pointillism and crosshatching to build up vivid effect.

Zhan Ziqian was a painter during the Sui Dynasty. His only painting in existence is Strolling About In Spring arranged mountains perspectively. It may be the first scenery painting of the world. In Europe the pure scenery paintings emerged merely after 17th century. So that he was the first scenery painter of whole world.

The Song and Yuan dynasties (960 – 1368)

Song poetry

Ci is a kind of lyric Chinese poetry. Beginning in the Liang Dynasty, the ci followed the tradition of the Shi Jing and the yue fu: they were lyrics which developed from anonymous popular songs (some of Central Asian origin) into a sophisticated literary genre. The form was further developed in the Tang Dynasty, and was most popular in the Song Dynasty.

Ci most often expressed feelings of desire, often in an adopted persona, but the greatest exponents of the form (such as Li Houzhu and Su Shi) used it to address a wide range of topics.

Well-known poets of the Song Dynasty include Zeng Gong, Li Qingzhao, Lu You, Mei Yaochen, Ouyang Xiu, Su Dongpo, Wang Anshi, and Xin Qiji.

Song painting

During the Song dynasty (960-1279), landscapes of more subtle expression appeared; immeasurable distances were conveyed through the use of blurred outlines, mountain contours disappearing into the mist, and impressionistic treatment of natural phenomena. Emphasis was placed on the spiritual qualities of the painting and on the ability of the artist to reveal the inner harmony of man and nature, as perceived according to Taoist and Buddhist concepts.

Liang Kai was a Chinese painter who lived in the 13th century (Song Dynasty). He called himself "Madman Liang," and he spent his life drinking and painting. Eventually, he retired and became a Zen monk. Liang is credited with inventing the Zen school of Chinese art.

Wen Tong was a painter who lived in the 11th century. He was famous for ink paintings of bamboo. He could hold two brushes in one hand and paint two different distanced bamboos simultaneously. He did not need to see the bamboo while he painted them because he had seen a lot of them.

Yuan drama

Chinese opera is a popular form of drama in China. In general, it dates back to the Tang dynasty with Emperor Xuanzong (712-755), who founded the "Pear Garden " (梨园), the first known opera troupe in China. The troupe mostly performed for the emperors' personal pleasure. To this day operatic professionals are still referred to as "Disciples of the Pear Garden" (梨园子弟). In the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), forms like the Zaju (杂剧, variety plays), which acts based on rhyming schemes plus the innovation of having specialized roles like "Dan " (旦, female), "Sheng " (生, male) and "Chou" (丑, Clown) were introduced into the opera.

Yuan dynasty opera continues today as Cantonese opera. It is universally accepted that Cantonese opera was imported from the northern part of China and slowly migrated to the southern province of Guangdong in late 13th century, during the late Southern Song Dynasty. In the 12th century, there was a theatrical form called Narm hei (南戲), or the Nanxi (Southern opera), which was performed in public theaters of Hangzhou, then capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. With the invasion of the Mongol army, Emperor Gong (Gong Di (恭帝 Gōngd)), Zhao Xian (趙顯 Zho Xiǎn) fled with hundreds of thousands of Song people into the province of Guangdong in 1276. Among these people were some Narm hei artists from the north. Thus narm hei was brought into Guangdong by these artists and developed into the earliest kind of Cantonese opera.

Many well-known operas performed today, such as The Purple Hairpin and Rejuvenation of the Red Plum Flower originated in the Yuan Dynasty, with the lyrics and scripts in Cantonese. Until the 20th century all the female roles were performed by males.

Yuan painting

Wang Meng was a Chinese painter during the Yuan dynasty. One of his well-known works is the Forest Grotto.

Zhao Mengfu was a Chinese scholar, painter and calligrapher during the Yuan Dynasty. His rejection of the refined, gentle brushwork of his era in favour of the cruder style of the eighth century is considered to have brought about a revolution that created the modern Chinese landscape painting.

Late imperial China (1368 – 1895)

Ming Poetry

Gao Qi is acknowledged by many as the greatest poet of the Ming Dynasty. His poems are imitative of those of earlier dynasties.

Ming painting

Under the Ming dynasty, Chinese culture bloomed. Narrative painting, with a wider color range and a much busier composition than the Song painting, was immensely popular during the time.

As the techniques of color printing were perfected, illustrated manuals on the art of painting began to be published. Jieziyuan Huazhuan (Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden), a five-volume work first published in 1679, has been in use as a technical textbook for artists and students ever since.

Matteo Ricci, Wen Zhengming, Xu Wei

Qing drama

The best known form of Chinese opera is Beijing opera, which assumed its present form in the mid-19th century and was extremely popular in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). In Beijing Opera, traditional Chinese string and percussion instruments provide a strong rhythmic accompaniment to the acting. The acting is based on allusion: gestures, footwork, and other body movements express such actions as riding a horse, rowing a boat, or opening a door.

Although it is called Beijing opera, its origins are not in Beijing but in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei. Beijing opera got its two main melodies, Xipi and Erhuang , from Anhui and Hubei operas. Much dialogue is also carried out in an archaic dialect originating partially from those regions. It also absorbed music and arias from other operas and musical arts such as the historic Qinqiang. It is regarded that Beijing Opera was born when the Four Great Anhui Troupes came to Beijing in 1790. Beijing opera was originally staged for the court and came into the public later. In 1828, some famous Hubei troupes came to Beijing. They often jointly performed in the stage with Anhui troupes. The combination gradually formed Beijing opera's main melodies.

Qing Poetry

Yuan Mei was well-known poet who lived during the Qing Dynasty. In the decades before his death, Yuan Mei produced a large body of poetry, essays and paintings. His works reflected his interest in Chan Buddhism and the supernatural, at the expense of Daoism and institutional Buddhism - both of which he rejected. Yuan is most famous for his poetry, which have been described as "unusually clear and elegant language". His views on poetry as expressed in the Suiyuan shihua (隨園詩話) stressed the importance of personal feeling and technical perfection.

Early Qing painting

Giuseppe Castiglione, Bada Shanren, Jiang Tingxi

Decorative arts

Qing fiction

Many great works of art and literature originated during the period and the Qianlong emperor in particular undertook huge projects to preserve important cultural texts. The novel form became widely read and perhaps China's most famous novel, Dream of the Red Chamber, was written in the mid-eighteenth century.

Cao Xueqin is the author of famous Chinese work Dream of the Red Chamber. Extant handwritten copies of this work – some 80 chapters – had been in circulation in Beijing shortly after Cao’s death, before Gao , who claimed to have access to the former’s working papers, published a complete 120-chapter version in 1792.

Pu Songling was a famous writer of Liaozhai Zhiyi 《聊齋志異》during the Qing dynasty. He opened a tea house and invited his guests to tell stories, then he would compile the tales and write them. Many of his tales have been made into films. One of these films is called The Chinese Ghost Story by Tsui Hark, a Hong Kong director.

Modern Chinese art


Beginning with the New Culture Movement, Chinese artists started to adopt Western techniques. It also was during this time that oil painting was introduced to China.

In the early years of the People's Republic of China, artists were encouraged to employ socialist realism. Some Soviet Union socialist realism was imported without modification, and painters were assigned subjects and expected to mass-produce paintings. This regimen was considerably relaxed in 1953, and after the Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956-1957, traditional Chinese painting experienced a significant revival. Along with these developments in professional art circles, there was a proliferation of peasant art depicting everyday life in the rural areas on wall murals and in open-air painting exhibitions.

Notable modern Chinese painters include Huang Binhong , Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, and Zhang Chongren.


Modern Chinese poems (新詩 vers libre) usually do not follow any prescribed pattern.

Bei Dao is the most notable representative of the Misty Poets, a group of Chinese poets who reacted against the restrictions of the Cultural Revolution. The work of the Misty Poets and Bei Dao in particular were an inspiration to pro-democracy movements in China. Most notable was his poem "Huida" ("The Answer") which was written during the 1976 Tiananmen demonstrations in which he participated. The poem was taken up as a defiant anthem of the pro-democracy movement and appeared on posters during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Xu Zhimo is a romantic poet who loved the poetry of the English Romantics like Keats and Shelley. He was one of the first Chinese writers to successfully naturalize Western romantic forms into modern Chinese poetry.

Influence of the West

"People's arts"

Ch'eng Mao-yn

Contemporary art since 1979

Performing arts

The Chinese government, to some extent, subsidises the training of artists, performers and athletes, which helps China to be prominent in many of the following fields:

  • Chinese folk arts - Chinese folk arts include puppetry and quyi , which consists of various kinds of storytelling and comic monologues and dialogues, often to the accompaniment of clappers, drums, or stringed instruments.
  • China is a world leader in the field of toss juggling and related skills such as devilstick manipulation, the diabolo or "Chinese yo-yo", rola-bola or "teeterboard" and balancing on the Giant Ball .
  • Chinese rock - This style of music combines Chinese musical instruments with techniques of Western-style rock and roll. It began in Mainland China during the mid-1980s and rose in popularity by the 1990s
  • Cantopop - Cantopop, a variety of cpop, is a multi-million dollar popular music industry in Asia centered around Hong Kong.

Visual arts

  • Radical Chinese art has continued to develop since the late 1970s. It incorporates painting, film, video, photography and performance. Up until the mid-1990s performance artists were regularly imprisoned by the state. More recently there has been greater tolerance by the Chinese government
  • Begining in the late 1980s there was increased exposure for younger Chinese visual artists in the west to some degree through the agency of curators based outside the country such as Hou Hanru . There was some controversy to this as critics claimed a situation was being created where more radical Chinese art would only be shown abroad with official support but not at home. In 2000 a number of Chinese artists were included in Documenta and a large number of Chinese artists were included in the Venice Biennale of 2003. China now has its own major contemporary art showcase with the Kwangju Biennale .

Leading contemporary visual artists include Huang Yong Ping , Lu Shengzhong, Ma Qingyun


Performing arts

  • Chinese opera - Traditional drama grew out of the zaju (variety plays) of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) and continues to exist in many (368?) different forms, the best known of which is Beijing opera.
  • Chinese music - Traditional Chinese music appears to date back to the dawn of Chinese civilization. Modern Chinese music contains considerable Western influences.

Visual arts

  • Chinese gardens

See also


  • The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia

Further reading

  • Barnhart, Richard M., et al. Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art: 2002. ISBN 0300094477.
  • Chi, Lillian, et al. A Dictionary of Chinese Ceramics. Sun Tree Publishing: 2003. ISBN 9810460236.
  • Clunas, Craig. Art in China. Oxford University Press: 1997. ISBN 0192842072.
  • Gowers, David, et al. Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing. Art Media Resources: 2002. ISBN 1588860337.
  • Ebrey, Patrici, et al. Taoism and the Arts of China. University of California Press: 2000. ISBN 0520227840.
  • Harper, Prudence Oliver. China: Dawn Of A Golden Age (200-750 AD). Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0300104871.
  • Mascarelli, Gloria, and Robert Mascarelli. The Ceramics of China: 5000 BC to 1900 AD. Schiffer Publishing: 2003. ISBN 0764318438.
  • Sturman, Peter Charles. Mi Fu: Style and the Art of Calligraphy in Northern Song China. Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0300104871.
  • Sullivan, Michael. The Arts of China. Fourth edition. University of California Press: 2000. ISBN 0520218779.
  • Tregear, Mary. Chinese Art. Thames & Hudson: 1997. ISBN 0500202990.
  • Watson, William. The Arts of China to AD 900. Yale University Press: 1995. ISBN 0300059892.

Last updated: 02-10-2005 06:07:39
Last updated: 02-11-2005 17:47:38