About the Traditional Chinese Painting

Traditional Chinese painting has been a prevalent art form in China since the Sui Tang and the Five Dynasties (581-979) and is still pursued by many artists in China and worldwide. It is one of the most important Chinese arts.


Image source: Spring in the Mountain (China Crafts Collection Gallery)

Traditional Chinese painters use tapered brushes dipping in ink and coloured pigments and paint on Xuan paper or various surfaces. The finished work can be mounted on hanging scrolls or frames.

Pigments used on Chinese paintings are mostly made from natural minerals and plants and do not contain oil.

Image Source: Thousands miles of mountains and rivers

Artists usually paint on Xuan paper, produced with natural ingredients including tree barks, plants and rice. So, Xuan paper is also known as rice paper. Traditional Chinese paintings are also seen on other surfaces, such as silk, walls, porcelain, wooden furniture and more as decorations.

Traditional Chinese painting shares the same foundation techniques as calligraphy; both require years of practice on the brushwork.

traditional chinese painting

Image Source: Study with Grandson

Common subjects of Chinese painting are landscapes, flowers and birds, and portraits. Like other fine arts, landscape scenery is a timeless topic for traditional Chinese painters, too. Many artists enjoy creating landscape paintings and expressing a wide variety of spiritual experience that nature has to offer.

traditional chinese painting

Two main techniques or styles of Chinese paintings are Gongbi (realistic) and Xieyi (freehand). Gongbi means painting in many details and achieving a highly realistic-looking finished work. Xieyi is called freehand painting, as using brief brushstrokes and loose colour to present the outline, spirit or the vibe of the context rather than much details.

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