China Overview


Chinese art has varied throughout its ancient history, divided into periods by the ruling dynasties of China and changing technology, as well as influenced by great philosophers, teachers and religion. Early forms of art in China were made from pottery and jade in the Neolithic period, to which was added bronze in the Shang Dynasty. The Shang are most remembered for their bronze casting, noted for its clarity of detail. Early Chinese music and poetry was influenced by the Book of Songs, Confucius and the Chinese poet and statesman Qu Yuan. Early Chinese music was based on percussion instruments, which later gave away to string and reed instruments.

In early imperial China, porcelain was introduced and was refined to the point that in English the word China has become synonymous with high-quality porcelain. Around the 1st century AD, Buddhism arrived in China, though it did not become popular until the 4th century. At this point, Chinese Buddhist art began to flourish, a process which continued through the 8th century. Around this period, several well-known Chinese poets influenced Chinese poetry, which included Cao Cao and his sons and Tao Qian. It was during the period of Imperial China that calligraphy and painting became highly appreciated arts in court circles, with a great deal of work done on silk until well after the invention of paper.

Buddhist architecture and sculpture thrived in the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Particularly the Tang Dynasty was open to foreign influence. Buddhist sculpture returned to a classical form, inspired by Indian art of the Gupta period. Toward the end of the Tang Dynasty, all foreign religions were outlawed to support Taoism. Also during this period, Chinese poetry thrived and the Tang is considered the "Golden age" of Chinese poetry. In this period, the greatest Chinese poets, Li Bai and Du Fu composed their poems. Late Tang poetry was marked by the influence of two poets, Li Shangyin  and Li Yu , the latter of whom introduced the stanza form. Painting from the Tang dynasty period mainly consisted of landscape that was to grasp emotion or atmosphere to catch the "rhythm of nature." Also in the Tang dynasty, Chinese opera was introduced.In the Song Dynasty, poetry was marked by a lyric poetry known as Ci  which expressed feelings of desire, often in an adopted persona. Also in the Song dynasty, paintings of more subtle expression of landscapes appeared, with blurred outlines and mountain contours which conveyed distance through an impressionistic treatment of natural phenomena. It was during this period that in painting, emphasis was placed on spiritual rather than emotional elements, as in the previous period. Kunqu, the oldest extant form of Chinese opera developed during the Song Dynasty in Kunshan, near present-day Shanghai. In the Yuan dynasty, painting by the Chinese painter Zhao Mengfu  greatly influenced later Chinese landscape painting, and the Yuan dynasty opera became a variant of Chinese opera which continues today as Cantonese opera.

Late Imperial China was marked by two specific dynasties: Ming and Qing. Of Ming Dynasty poetry, Gao Qi was acknowledged as the greatest poet of the era. Artwork in the Ming dynasty perfected color painting and color printing, with a wider color range and busier compositions than Song paintings. In the Qing dynasty, Beijing opera was introduced; it is considered the one of the best-known forms of Chinese opera. Qing poetry was marked by a poet named Yuan Mei whose poetry has been described as having "unusually clear and elegant language" and who stressed the importance of personal feeling and technical perfection. Under efforts of masters from the Shanghai School during the late Qing Dynasty, traditional Chinese art reached another climax and continued to the present in forms of the "Chinese painting" (guohua). The ShanghaiSchool challenged and broke the literati tradition of Chinese art, while also paying technical homage to the ancient masters and improving on existing traditional techniques.

Chinese art was heavily influenced by the New Culture Movement in the 20th century, which adopted Western techniques, intr

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