Traditional Chinese Art has varied due to change in times and due to change in dynasties. Important religious figures have also played a role in development of Chinese art.
In fact, even the political leaders that have ruled over China have had an influence on the Chinese art.
Of all the Chinese artworks, the most demonstrative are Bronze Vessels, Folk Toys, Calligraphy, Poetry, Cloisonne, Painting, Silk, Lacquer, Porcelain, Terracotta Army, Seals, Opera and Shadow puppetry.
These works not only reflect the culture of China but also the talent which people possessed.
These were invented some 5,000 years ago. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin with lower melting point and a higher degree of hardness than those of copper. When it is cast, bronze has the advantages of minimum air bubble production and maximum flow quality.
This can give objects razor-sharp edges, thus making it a suitable material for durable weapons, tools, and containers. China produced bronze objects as long as four thousand years ago in the period of the Lungshan culture and brought the use of bronze vessels to a height in the Shang and Chou dynasties.
Folk toys capture the customs and beliefs of ancient China. These toys help us to understand the Chinese culture. These toys serve as a means through which Chinese people can express their hopes and desires, as well as their affection towards their children.
Filled with a multitude of meanings, Chinese folk toys bring beauty and art into ordinary lives.
The Ancient Chinese considered writing an important form of art. Calligraphy is a highly stylish form of writing. To produce Chinese characters one needs a brush, paper, ink stick and ink stone.
These are referred to as the “Four Treasures of the Study”. It is essential to learn these tools in order to learn calligraphy.
Poetry too was an important part of art. Du Fu, Li Bai and Su Shi are considered among the best ancient poets, and there are five major kinds of ancient poetic styles called Shi, Ci, Ge, Qu and Fu. During the Tang Dynasty poetry became so important that writing poetry was part of the examinations to become a civil servant and work for the government.
Cloisonne is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects. The term “cloisonné” refers to the technique as well as to the finished product. It comes from the French word “cloison” which means “partition”.
The utensils are usually made of copper or bronze over which thin copper wire is glued or welded to draw decorative designs or themes. Cloisonne came to China in the early fourteenth to the late fifteenth century. The process became very popular with court artisans and the earliest recorded piece is from the Ming Xuande Emperor’s rule in 1426.
The Yunan province was supposed to be the first to produce unique pieces as it was under the Mongol rule. However, early Chinese Cloisonne was so delicate that very few imperial pieces have survived to date. Most of these pieces are now stored with the Palace Museum.
Painting was often inspired by poetry and combined with calligraphy. Many paintings were sceneries that featured mountains, homes, birds, trees, and water.
Traditional painting involves the same techniques as required in calligraphy. Fan Kuan painted one of the finest landscapes known as the Travelers amid Mountains and Streams.
The Ancient Chinese mastered the art of making silk from the cocoons of silkworms. They kept this technique secret for hundreds of years as silk was desired by other nations and enabled China to become rich.
They also dyed silk into intricate and decorative patterns.
Lacquer is a clear coating made from the sap of sumac trees. It was used to add beauty and shine to many pieces of art. It also was used to protect art from getting damaged, especially from bugs.
Fine Chinese porcelain was not only an important art, but also became an important export.
During the Ming Dynasty blue and white vases became highly priced and were sold to the rich people throughout Europe and Asia
This is one of the greatest examples of Ancient Chinese art. Terracotta Army was made for the burial of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.
This was done to protect him after life. Terracotta Army includes sculptures of 8000 soldiers and 520 horses. Each sculpture of soldier has been given a unique face. These sculptures were life sized. The minutest details such as their uniform, weapon and armor have been well reflected.
Chinese opera is recognized as one of the three oldest dramatic art forms in the world. It is a combination of music, art and literature. During the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Taizong established an opera school by the name Liyuan (Pear Garden).
From that time on, performers of Chinese opera were referred to as ‘disciples of the pear garden’. Since the Yuan Dynasty, it has been encouraged by court officials and emperors and has become a traditional art form.
In this, shadows of the puppets are projected on to the white screen. In China the shadow plays are often folk-tales and legends of the past, many based on Chinese opera themes.
Traditional shadow puppets are flat and made of leather. Areas within the puppet are pressed out with sharp knives. These areas suggest facial features and help define clothing. The puppets are made from separate pieces and joined together with wire or string.
They are controlled by long rods and moved behind a white translucent screen made from paper or cloth. A lamp on the puppeteer’s side of the stage provides the light while the audience on the other side sees the moving shadows.
Other forms of art that took place in Ancient China included lantern making, paper cutting and seal making.