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Chinese Art

Autorius: Lukas

China has the world’s oldest living civilization. It’s written history

goes back almost 3,500 years, and the history told by it’s artifacts and

artwork goes back much farther. The oldest known works of Chinese art

include pottery and jade carvings from the time of 5000 BC.

Jade is a general term used to describe either jadeite or nephrite, known

as true jade. It’s composed of several minerals. It’s smooth and rich in

texture, but it’s also extremely tough. It can be off-white, or dark

green, and sometimes has a reddish tint. Authentic jade is cool and never

translucent. The philosopher Confucius described jade perfectly when he


“It is soft, smooth and shining- like intelligence. It’s edges seem sharp

but do not cut- like justice. It hangs down to the ground- like humility.

When struckm, it gives clear, ringing sounds- like music. The strains in

it are not hidden and add to it’s beauty- like truthfulness. It has

brightness- like heaven. It’s firm substance is born of the mountains and

the waters- like the earth.”

The material has been used since the Shang dynasty, which lasted from

1766-1022 B.C. They see it as a sign of wealth and authority and also as

an object of beauty. The chinese word for jade is yu. During the Ming

dynasty, the Chinese people thought that only green or white stones were

true jade, and the other colors were called fu yu, or false jade. It was

classified into nine different colors during the Tsin dynasty, and has more

recently been classified into many different categories.

Jade is one of the touchest stones in the world, near the diamond because

of overlapping fibers within the stone. Tons of pressure are needed to

crush some of the larger pieces of jade. A single cut through a one foot

cube of jade would take several weeks.

The ancient chinese people thought that jade had special powers, and they

used it in rituals and ceremonies. It was also beleived to have medical

uses, but the most common use is for decoration. Jade is not mined in

China, but China is still considered the “home” of jade because the artists

from China have learned to carve the stone better than the artists from any

other country. The ancient artists would stare at rough pieces of jade,

and then decide what they wanted to carve it into.

Chinese pottery is also an ancient form of art in China. It was first

created in the pre-dynastic neolithic era. Some fragments of pottery are

from 3,000 B.C. 4,000 years

after that, the porcelain from the Sung and

Ming dynasty, the most famous and beautiful porcelain in the world, was

created. Although other countries also created China, the pottery

originated in Asia. French porcelain was inspired by the delicate white

work from the Ting dynasty, and Clue and white Dutch Delft porcelain was

modeled after pottery from the Ming dynasty.

Pottery started out as functional, but became more ornamental as the

centires continued. the themes of the painted and carved porcelain were

mostly nature scenes, but they were also from folklore. Artrists originaly

molded the clay with their hands and set it in the sun to try. Eventualy

they began to use a potter’s wheel, and they used a glaze at the same time

as the romans.

During the Tang dynasty, Chinese pottery began to develop it’s own distict

style. They used the first colored glazes, and underglaze painting. The

best pottery came from the time between the Sung dynasty and the Ming

times, when the King hired officials to work in his court strictly as

potters. When these artists made mistakes in their work (cracks or drips),

they used the mistakes to create a picture, such as turning a crack into a

tree, or a drip into a teardrop.

Although painting was not China’s first form of art, it is probably the

most important and dominating form today. Chinese paintings have always

tried to capture philosophy as well as details. 1,400 years ago, Hsieh Ho,

made six basic laws for painting, which artists in China still follow

today. They are:

1. Paiting has to have rythem and movement, it has an existence of its own

2. The brush should be used to establish structure in painting in the same

manner as in calligraphy

3. Observe conformity with nature and natural proportions

4. Use color appropriately

5. Live up to tradition by copying the masters

Chinese artists try to create perfect artwork because they beleive

strongly in the philosophy of painting, and many paintings are missing

objects that the artist did not think necessary, such as the water around a


Even if a chinese artist draws something that does not exist, such as a

dragon, what he creates is always done in the style of realism, so that the

finished product looks like it could actualy be alive.

Artists try to paint from memory rather than from pictures, and they use

brushes, solidified ink, a stone slab to grind the ink, color pigments, and

paper or silk. A Chinese painter will always hold his brush as perfectly

perpendicular to the paper as possible, and he will never use an easel.

The human figure did not appear in Chinese art until the Han dynasty, where

it was used to express religious ideas.

The people of china write their language in the form of calligraphy, and

it has become as much of an art form as painting or sculpting. It is not

considered just handwriting, but it has to show personality and

style.General Yueh Fei was an accomplished caligrapher. The emperor began

to suspect his loyalty, and so he turned to calligraphy because he was hurt

so deeply. The result was his copy of the Report to the Emperor Before an

Expedition, which has become a calligraphic masterpiece.

The brush used for calligraphy in China was invented before the fifth

century B.C. and quick-absorbing paper was invented to go along with it.

The system of calligraphy is beautiful, but works of calligraphy have to be

done perfectly, because wrong figures cannot be corrected.

When an artist writes something with calligraphy, what he writes is not

always as important as how the figures look on paper. Sometimes they will

even be unrecognizable, but it’s not considered wrong if the artist thought

it would improve the project.

For ten to fifteen years, an artist must be an apprentice to a classic

Chinese calligrapher, and then work on developing a style of his own.

There are three basic categories in calligraphy, regular, running, and

grass tyles. Regular is elaborate, running is rapid, and grass is a

shorthand form of writing.

Over a thousand years before crafters in Rome began molding bronze,

artists in China’s Shang dynasty were begining to experiment. The works

were burried and forgotten, but in 1934, dozens of inscribed bronze works

were excavated at Anyang in Honan province. The pieces of art that were

discovered were nearly perfect, and historians could not beleive what they

saw. Most of the art had been burried in the soft banks of the Yellow

river, and were perfectly preserved. The National Palace Museum in Taipei

has more than 4,000 bronze items.

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