Ancient China Paintings

Painting was a very important art in Ancient Chinese.  Often times, painting was inspired by calligraphy and painting.

Many of the paintings were of animals, houses, nature and landscapes.

Gentlemen in Conversation

The Three Perfections

Painting is one of the “Three Perfections” which was combined with calligraphy and poetry as the most important Chinese arts.

Paintings were often times combined with calligraphy and poetry when the artist painted.

Paintings came in different forms and some were small, and others were very large and would completely cover the palace walls.

The History of Chinese Paintings

Most of the first Ancient Chinese paintings happened during the Six Dynasties and continued through the Tang Dynasty.

During this time, the artists loved to pain landscape paintings and they would paint based on what they would see outside.

Many of the paintings included things such as mountains, trees, and the sky.

Later, during the Song Dynasty, artists would try to figure out ways to express their emotions through their paintings and they would combine both calligraphy and poetry to their works.

They would often times paint a picture of an animal, a flower or a bird and then they would add poetry, in calligraphy, to the painting.

As art changed, art schools started becoming popular and many Chinese painters would go to school to learn different painting techniques.

Many of the emperors would open up schools so that they could find great artists in their area.

Many of these artists began using different materials such as ink and brushes and they changed the way that they created their paintings, sometimes using new material and sometimes choosing to leave out the poetry and the calligraphy.

Ancient Chinese Paintings

Many of the Ancient Chinese paintings can be found in mansions, places and in tombs.

Many of the tombs from the Han Dynasty have many paintings that were used as grave goods and were given to their ancestors after they died.  These were used to help their ancestors to have a happy afterlife.

During the Tang Dynasty, portrait painting became more popular and people from the royal court would hire artists to paint them or their families. Most of the paintings were done for the emperors or the ladies of the palace.

The portrait paintings were sometimes done in only black and white and did not have color, while others were made only with ink and outlines. Some of the portrait paintings had color and were very detailed.

Loquats and Mountain Bird

Techniques of Ancient Chinese Paintings

The traditional paintings of the Ancient Chinese were done using brushes that were dipped in either black or colored ink.

The paintings were most of the time done on silk or on scrolls that were mounted and hung.

Other paintings were done on walls or on ceilings, and other paintings were done on pottery or porcelain.

There are two different Ancient Chinese painting techniques:  Gongbi and Xieyi.

Gongbi was when an artist would use a brush that was like a pen and they would use a lot of detail and strokes.  This was usually the style for portrait paintings.

Xieyi was freestyle and was not as detailed.  This type of style was used mostly for landscapes.


More Facts About Ancient Chinese Paintings

  • Shuimo means watercolor and ink.
  • Tang Dynasty was the first dynasty to see landscape paintings.
  • Shanshui was paintings that were of mountains and water.
  • During the Northern Song period, painters used more strokes and black lines to show hills, stones and rivers.
  • It was during the Yuan Dynasty that artists added calligraphy and poetry to their paintings.
  • Colored paintings were mostly seen during the Ming Dynasty.
  • Illustrated books also happened during the Ming Dynasty.
  • Shanghai and Yangzhou were considered art centers because art was so popular in these cities.
  • The Ancient Chinese artists learned to paint from their masters.
  • It is believed that the Ancient Chinese believed that they were only a small speck in creation.
  • Paintings were done to show the artists character.

What Did You Learn?

  • What was painting, along with calligraphy and poetry, considered to be?  Painting was considered to be part of the “Three Perfections” of art.
  • What were the first types of paintings?  Landscape paintings were considered to be some of the first Ancient Chinese paintings.
  • During which dynasty did calligraphy and poetry begin to be added to their paintings?  It was during the Song Dynasty that calligraphy and poetry were added to the paintings.
  • Where can many Ancient Chinese paintings be found?  Many Ancient Chinese paintings can be found in tombs.
  • What are the two techniques of Ancient Chinese paintings?  Gongbi and Xieyi are the two techniques for Ancient Chinese paintings. Gongbi is used mostly for portraits and Xieyi is used mostly for landscape art.