Traditional Chinese painting is an art form that exudes elegance and beauty, dating back centuries. With the use of delicate brushes and vibrant ink, skilled artists create stunning masterpieces on silk or rice paper that captures the essence of Chinese culture. Often associated with the four classical arts of qin, qi, calligraphy, and painting, this intricate craft is a true testament to the artistic excellence and rich heritage of China. Through the unique blend of colour, line, and form, traditional Chinese painting brings to life a world of vivid landscapes, lively characters, and intricate details that continues to captivate audiences to this day.
The main tool of Chinese painting
Central to Chinese painting are the "Four Treasures of the Study", which include the brush, ink, paper, and inkstone - essential tools that have been revered by ancient Chinese literati. These treasures hold great cultural significance and evoke a range of emotions beyond just writing and painting. The stories surrounding these tools are countless and have been passed down by generations of literati and painters alike. Beyond the Four Treasures, there are numerous other painting tools that are just as vital to this art form, such as seals, ink pads, pen holders, pen washes, and other literary tools.
One of the most notable differences between traditional Chinese painting and Western painting lies in the colour adjustment techniques used in each style. In traditional Chinese painting, the primary colour adjustment tool is glue. The glue can be easily diluted with water, and other colours can be mixed with it to create a wide range of hues. These colours are often derived from natural minerals such as aquamarine, lime green, cinnabar, and others. In contrast, Western oil painting relies on oil as the primary colour adjustment tool. This difference in colour adjustment techniques results in a unique visual style that distinguishes traditional Chinese painting from Western painting. The use of glue in traditional Chinese painting allows for delicate and nuanced colours that blend seamlessly, while the use of oil in Western painting creates a bold and vivid colour palette that is highly expressive.
The Long History of Chinese painting
Chinese painting is not just an art form, it reflects the national consciousness and aesthetic values of the Chinese people. It serves as a window into the ancient Chinese understanding of nature, society, politics, philosophy, religion, morality, literature, and art.
Initially, silk was the primary material used for painting, which limited the subject matter to portraits of the royal family and nobility. However, with the advancement of paper-making technology during the Song and Yuan dynasties, the scope of Chinese painting expanded, leading to the rise of scholar painting and a diverse range of subjects. Today, Chinese painting encompasses a wide range of styles, including humanistic painting, courtyard painting, figuration, flower and bird painting, landscape painting, figure painting, sketching, freehand painting, heavy colour painting, ink painting, white painting, Dunhuang murals, inner painting, black bone painting, lithography, and more. Moreover, it was during this time that inscriptions and poems began to appear on paintings, marking the beginning of the integration of calligraphy and painting in Chinese art. Through its evolution, Chinese painting has become an essential part of China's cultural heritage and continues to inspire artists and admirers around the world with its beauty and sophistication.
After the Ming Dynasty, Chinese painting became more accessible to the public, and genre painting emerged as a popular form of expression. This enabled local artists to showcase their unique styles and themes, resulting in a diverse range of subjects, styles, and techniques in Chinese painting. It not only chronicles the country's artistic achievements, but also embodies the traditional Chinese philosophy of the "unity of heaven and man," which emphasises the interconnectedness of all things in the universe.
The Concept of Harmony Between Man and Nature
Chinese painting attaches great importance to conception in its creation, emphasising the idea of writing first and thinking in images, and pays attention to the unity of subjectivity and objectivity of artistic images. The shape is not limited to the superficial resemblance but emphasises "the beauty lies in the difference between the resemblance and the resemblance" and "the resemblance of the dissimilarity". Chinese painting uses its unique brush and ink skills as a means of expressing objects and expressing emotions. It uses points, lines, and surfaces to describe the shape, bone method, texture, light and shade, and emotional charm of objects.
Chinese painting is often divided into three categories: figures, landscapes, and flowers and birds. However, these classifications go beyond mere subject matter and express profound concepts and ideas through art. The "three disciplines of painting" embody three aspects of the universe and life: Figure painting reflects human society and the complex relationships between individuals; landscape painting captures the delicate balance between humans and nature, as they merge into a harmonious whole; flower-and-bird painting showcases the beauty and diversity of nature, highlighting the importance of living in harmony with all living things. Together, these three disciplines encapsulate the interconnectedness and unity of all things in nature.