Introduction to Chinese Painting

By: Azlan

Calligraphy and painting were two of the most appreciated art forms in antediluvian China. Calligraphy was thought to be the highest and purest form of painting. The history of painting in China dates back to the 2nd century BCE. In the earliest era, painting and writing were made out on silk, until paper was later invented during the 1st century CE.

Chinese art, and in particular, Chinese painting is greatly treasured around the globe. Chinese painting can be retraced to as far back as six thousand years ago in the Neolithic Age when the Chinese have started using brushes in their paintings. Chinese art dates back even sooner than that.

According to theme topic, there are two major categories of Chinese painting: landscapes, character paintings and flower-and-bird paintings. In traditional Chinese painting, Chinese landscape artwork embodies a sizable collection, depicting nature, particularly mountains and bodies of water. Landscapes have traditionally been the favorite of the Chinese because they manifest the poetry characteristic in nature. Accordingly, many famous paintings are landscapes.

The most commonly recognized variant of Chinese art is “Water-ink” painting, where water-ink is the medium. Some of the basic things required for the Chinese painting include: paper, brush, ink or ink stick, ink stone, and color.

• Brush: The Chinese brush is a necessary element for Chinese painting. The brush should be strong and flexible. Two types of brushes are used. The more delicate brush is created from white sheep hair. This brush should be soaked first, and then dried to prevent curling. The latter one is fabricated from fox or deer sable fibers, which are very resilient, and tend to paint better. The procedure the brush is used depends on the varied features of brush strokes one wants to obtain, such as weight, lightness, gracefulness, ruggedness, firmness, and fullness. Different types of shades are used to express space, texture, or depth.

• Ink Stick: There are three types of Ink Stick: resin soot, lacquer soot, and tung-oil soot. Of the three, tung-oil soot is the most commonly used. Otherwise, Chinese ink is best if ink stick or ink stone are ineffectual.

• Paper: The most commonly used paper is Xuan paper, which is fabricated of sandalwood bark. This is exceptionally water retentive, so the color or ink disperses the moment the brush stroke is put down. The second most well-known is Mian paper.

• Color: The most former Chinese paintings used Mo, a kind of indigenous ink, to produce monochromatic representations of nature or day-to-day life. Fabricated out of pine soot, mo is combined with water to get unique shades for conveying appropriate layers or color in a painting.

Chinese painting is called shui-mo-hua. Shui-mo is the combination of shui (water) and mo. There are two styles of Chinese painting. They are gong-bi or detailed style, and xie-yi or freehand style. The latter is the most popular, not only because the objects are drawn with just a few strokes, but also because shapes and sprites are drawn by simple curves and natural ink. Many ancient poets and students used xie-yi paintings to give tongue to their religious anguish.

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Harold Mitschka Is a researcher and writer working for, where you can get all the best Chinese art and artifacts at the best prices. Visit us for all your Chinese artifact needs.

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