Chinese Art Essay Example

8Chinese Art


Chinese Art


Chinese painting has been regarded as being one of the most “oldest and continuous artistic traditions” in the entire world. In the contemporary society, painting using the traditional style is referred to as “guohua” which implies native painting or national as opposed to the Western artistic styles, which became famous during in China during the 20th century. Normally, traditional painting is known to essentially involve the same methods as calligraphy and it is therefore done using a brush, which is dipped in either a coloured or a black ink, and thus oils are strictly not used. Just like in the calligraphy technique, the most famous materials on which such paintings are made are on silk and paper. The finished work can be mounted on the scrolls like on the hand scrolls and on the hanging scrolls. In addition, the traditional painting can also be done on the folding screens, lacquer ware, walls, and album sheets and on other media as well (Elkins, 2007).

There are two major techniques in Chinese painting namely the “Gong-bi” which means meticulous and it is known to use or utilize brushstrokes, which precisely delimits the details. This technique (Gong-bi) is usually highly coloured and it portrays narrative or figural subjects and thus it is practiced by the artists who work for the royal courts or even in independent workshops as well. The second technique is the ink and washes painting also known as the “Shui-mo”, brush painting, watercolour or literati painting. This technique is regarded as being China’s Four Arts Scholar Official Class, which was normally practiced or done by gentlemen.

Features of Chinese Painting

Chinese painting has been traditionally referred to as brush painting because of its unique painting materials. Chinese painting is therefore classified into three major categories namely bird& Flower painting, landscape painting and Figure painting. Chinese painting can technically be divided into either “Monochrome Abbreviated Ink Work” or “Traditional Chinese Realistic Painting”. Landscape painting has been referred to as being the main theme of “Chinese Painting” in China and it originated Eastern Jin Dynasty which was created about 1600 years ago (Wang, 2007).

Landscape painting in China is referred to as “San Shui” which implies mountain and river. Normally, the major aim of the Chinese Landscape painting is not only to symbolize the real appearance of nature but to also reflect or depict the emotions and feelings of the painter towards the landscape and philosophy of life. The drawing materials, which are used, include the ink, the brush and rice paper. Chinese painting is typically created using ink stone, ink stick, ink brush and Xuan paper. For a long time, Chinese artists have actually exploited the ink brushes’ richness in various styles and therefore the methods of using a brush and ink in order to produce or yield expressive brush strokes, which convey the feeling, emotions and mood, have now become the core objective in Chinese painting.

Landscape painting was normally regarded as being the highest level of Chinese painting and even today, it still is. It was famously known as being The Great Age of Chinese Landscape during the time or period of the “Five Dynasties” that occurred during the period of the Northern song (907-1127).

Features of Western Painting

On the contrast, Western painting is known to have originated from the ancient Rome and Greece and thus its development was contemporaneous with the other forms of art like sculpture, music and dance. It can correctly be asserted that the western painting contents were closely associated or linked with the daily life of people. Oil painting is therefore the major type of western panting. Painters normally draw the contents on board, cloth, thick paper or canvas having oily pigments (Zhen, 2009). The features of the oil painting are depicted in the rich colour, which has a strong artistic expression capable of expressing the actual sense of the objects. In addition to that, the aesthetic taste associated with western painting is known to focus on the aesthetics and authenticity of the objects painted. To achieve an actual art effect, the western painters are known to pay much attention towards the light, shade, perspective, proportion, chroma and anatomy of the painting. It can be correctly be asserted that during the 16th century, the landscape painting emerged as the only individual painting which appeared in Europe after the period of Renaissance and it has since then become a great development in the world. Based on the style, it can be correctly be ascertained that Western landscape painting is divided into empiricist, emblematic, fantastic and naturalistic. Based on the above facts, it can therefore be genuinely asserted that both the western and Chinese landscape paintings are greatly affected by the different religious, cultural and political effects, which are eventually formulated in order to form their own aesthetic and expressionist characteristics (Elkins, 2010).

Differences between Western Painting and Traditional Chinese Painting

Throughout history, the human form has actually become the major central point of interest in the west. While in the west landscape was regarded as being a major theme, which comparatively emerged during late periods and was greatly associated with the Romantic Movement, in China, it was regarded as being otherwise. Landscape was asserted as having come to assume the highest status according to the classical art and excellence. Despite the fact that art was regarded as being the major focus of philosophy, most of the artists living in ancient China during either the eighth century or earlier discovered their aspirations in nature and thus landscape painting was regarded to be the most satisfying method of satisfying or representing nature as a whole. This is because it made people to have a sense of communion in nature and realize oneself as part of an “orderly cosmos” (Cody, et al, 2011).

The difference between Chinese painting and western painting is associated with the perspective and viewpoint of the painter in both Chinese and Western art. On the other hand, while the eye of “the western artist” is known to take in or absorb the scene from an average sized man of either 5 or 6 feet above the ground level, the Chinese artist is known to work from a raised view located on a hillside that is opposite the scene. The Chinese artist is therefore known to have no fixed viewpoint and thus his gaze is capable of roving both vertically and horizontally at will.

While the classic western arts are known to be normally executed in oil on the canvas, the Chinese paintings are on the other hand known to be done through the means of water-soluble inks on the silk or on the absorbent piece of paper. In most circumstances, it is usually possible to paint out a particular portion of canvas and redo it using a new version upon the employment of the oil paints but the use of watercolours and ink makes the alteration of a stroke, which has been drawn once to become impossible, and beyond recall. It can be argued correctly that indeed, Chinese culture has greatly invented and evolved a number of things.

Specifics of Chinese Art

Chinese Calligraphy and painting are known to differentiate themselves from the arts of other cultures through emphasizing on the motion and change in the dynamic of life. Traditionally, the practice was first learnt through wrote in which the master showed the learner the correct or right way of drawing items. The apprentice or learner was supposed to copy the items strictly and in continuous form until all the movements were instinctive. During the contemporary times, debate has however emerged regarding the limits of such a copyist tradition with the modern art scenes making innovation as being a rule. The new masters’ waves have been greatly been influenced through the changing tools, lifestyles and colours.

When discussing the differences between the western paintings and Chinese paintings, it should be noted that the major difference is actually about the style, which is the most vital one. Most Chinese artists are normally very spiritual and as a result, their paintings are more like their own poems since they are light and they do not use much colour since they are about a spirit which should not only be light but it should also be very far from materialism. That is the major reason as to why the Chinese paintings use watercolors as opposed to the oil colours. According to Chinese paintings, calligraphy is something, which is not only spiritual but also eternal which the opposite of the western paintings is. On the other hand, the western painting is composed of nature, landscape and life style.

Due to different materials, cultural backgrounds and instruments, Chinese paintings are known to have their own contents and image as compared to other forms of paintings like the Western Paintings. The Chinese Painting’s unique appearance is highly attributed to the use of Chinese paper, which comprises of rice and silk and the Chinese writing brush. There are normally four major components, which are used in creating of the Chinese painting namely the ink, the paper, the ink stone and the brush.

In Chinese painting, the most vital factors include the close relationship with the personality of the painter, the special pedagogy and the Chinese’s unique philosophy. They are therefore trained in not only expressing the spirit and the mood of the subject but also to convey the objects. According to the Chinese, they strongly believe that the painting is actually an expression of a painter’s temperament and knowledge. As a result, the Chinese painting is asserted to be something more than just art (Charles, 2011). The most vital philosophy that is associated with China is really the Heaven’s unity, Human Beings and the Earth. In general, it can truly be asserted that what “the Chinese Painters” are attempting to do is not “what meets the eye” but rather, it is their general attitude towards the Great Nature. It is a fact that indeed, the Chinese painter has a profound admiration and love for nature because it is part of their religious practices, culture and need to wholly depend on nature to survive.

In relation to the animal and human figures, it can be ascertained that the Chinese Painter unlike the western painter is known to use the forms, which he finds in nature like circles, geometric lines, and ovals, which are also prevalent in Chinese Calligraphy. As a result, all Chinese paintings regardless of whether they are human figures or landscapes are normally painted using the same rhythm, harmony and movement, which are used whenever drawing any forms of calligraphy. Indeed, it can genuinely be asserted that calligraphy is a form of art, which is even more honoured and revered than any other paintings.

In the same theme, Chinese arts and paintings spend numerous hours drawing and contemplating inspiration from the nature figures like the cricket’s robust legs, humming birds having fragile wings and the praying mantis’ fascinating form. From the simple or minor creatures, which are chosen as being the subjects of artwork, it can be clearly observed how they love devoting towards the most humble things and how they enjoy nature. The Chinese painter normally finds it quite offensive to both draw and contemplate the human figure just by itself. This is because they strongly believe that human beings are part of the earth and heavens all together. That is the main reason as to why the Chinese paints are known to be full of harmony and simple in composition, peace and overall balance in all the creations. They are therefore normally interested in the spirit and the mood.


It can be correctly be asserted that when the Chinese Calligraphers moved to work in the west, they normally mixed western art with the Chinese calligraphy coupled with computer technology in order to establish a universal visual language and express the complexities and contradictions associated with multiculturalism. However, it can correctly be said that Chinese calligraphy is normally applicable towards a wide range of expression that includes modern politics and consciousness.


Charles, V, 2011, Pablo Picasso, New York: Parkstone International.

Cody, J, et al, 2011, Brush & Shutter. New York, Getty Publications.

Elkins, J, 2007, Is Art Global? New York, Taylor & Francis.

Elkins, J, 2010, Chinese Landscape Painting as Western Art History, New York, Hong Kong University Press.

Wang, M, 2007, Confrontation and Complicity, New York, ProQuest.

Zhen, L, 2009, Chinese Watercolor Techniques for Exquisite Flowers, New York, North Light Books.