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Ancient China produced many types of beautiful works of art. Different eras and dynasties had their specialties. Chinese philosophy and religion had an impact on artistic styles and subjects.
Landscape Painting from Five Dynasties Period
The Three Perfections
The three perfections were calligraphy, poetry, and painting. Often they would be combined together in art. These became important starting with the Song Dynasty.
Calligraphy - This is art of handwriting. The Ancient Chinese considered writing an important form of art. Calligraphers would practice for years to learn to write perfectly, but with style. Each of the over 40,000 characters needed to be drawn precisely. In addition, each stroke in a character had to be drawn in a specific order.
Poetry - Poetry was an important form of art as well. Great poets were famous throughout the empire, but all educated people were expected to write poetry. 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.
Painting - Painting was often inspired by poetry and combined with calligraphy. Many paintings were landscapes that featured mountains, homes, birds, trees, and water.
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 prized and were sold to the wealthy throughout Europe and Asia.
The Ancient Chinese mastered the art of making silk from the spun 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.
The Ancient Chinese often used lacquer in their art. 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 helped to protect art from getting damaged, especially from bugs.
The Terracotta Army is a fascinating aspect of Ancient Chinese art. It was created for the burial of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in order to protect him in the afterlife. It consists of thousands of sculptures that make up an army of soldiers. There were sculptures of over 8,000 soldiers and 520 horses in the terracotta army. These weren't tiny sculptures either. All 8,000 soldiers were life-sized! They had details too, including uniforms, weapons, armor, and each soldier even had his own unique face.
A Terracotta Soldier and Horse
Take a ten question quiz on the Ancient Chinese Art questions page.
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