Chinese people are talented in various ways as exhibited in their rich culture and especially in their arts. The origin of Chinese arts dates back to many centuries ago. In those early days, the main ideas were generated from religious beliefs as well as the natural environment and the landscape. The art works done then followed a series of dynasties some of which lasted hundreds of years. They were unique in different ways and were expressed in different media. Some of these forms of art included painting, sculpture, porcelain, architecture and so on and so forth as are herein explained.
Chinese painting dates back about 6000 years ago, a period referred to as the Neolithic Age. Evidence of excavated pottery with paintings of human figures, fishes, insects, birds and animals, flowers and plants as well as abstract patterns (Linz, 2006) proves that indeed Chinese painting dates back to the Neolithic age. It has undoubtedly grown over time from primitive to more advanced forms of expression. The greatest developments occurred after China was divided into states during the third to the sixth century. This was characterized by incessant wars and succession of dynasties and through this, the thinking of Chinese artists was sharpened. The Tang Dynasty (618-907) for example was a period with tremendous growth. There was figure painting of noble women and court ladies (Mobile Reference 2007) and hence the development of shi nu hua (painting of beauties), an important branch of Chinese traditional painting in the modern era.
Calligraphy, the painting of Chinese characters with a brush is also one of the oldest basic forms of Chinese art. It is a pure form in its own regard and has developed with time to be a distinct style that differs greatly from Western painting. The efficient brushstrokes are a distinctive feature of this type of painting without a shadow of doubt. Landscapes have stood the test of time as the most popular of themes (Mobile Reference, 2007). The characteristic behavior of withdrawing to isolated and mountainous areas has been the driving force behind this.
Another medium of expression of Chinese arts is through sculpting. Articles of clay were first made in China by people living along Yangtze River about 4000 years ago. These articles resembled most of the domesticated animals such as dogs, pigs, sheep and chicken. The Owl Kettle that had a totemic meaning and the Pottery guis are examples of the pottery sculptures. The Pottery guis was made in the shape of pigs and dogs.
The two were used as utensils for both decorative and practical value. In some cultures, they were used as toys for children. The sculptors created them out of interest after observation but it is still a mystery that the meaning of these sculptures is still unknown. The earlier forms later became the foundation for more refined sculpture creations such as the Turracotta Warriors, Horse Stepping in a Swallow and the Giant Stone Buddha at Leshan. It is however important to note that most wooden Tang Sculptures have not survived, though representations of the Tang international style can still be seen in Nara, Japan. Some of the finest examples can be seen at Longmen, near Louyang, Yongang near Datong and Bingling Temple in Gansu (Mobile Reference, 2007).
Porcelain, an example of Chinese arts was birthed in China way before the Tang Dynasty. The earliest forms were known to be smooth, impervious and of a hard enamel. They were mostly used among ordinary people and the items used included bowls, cups, tea sets, vases, jewel cases and incense burners among others. They replaced articles made of gold, silver and other materials during the Tang Dynasty. Of most populous features were the Yue and De kiln of Zhejiang Province. After this, kilns used for baking porcelain for royalty were set up and porcelain art industry was completely revolutionized.
Today, finished artifacts are more colorful, gentle and clean. They come in a diversity of colors ranging from ancient purple to magenta, to ochre, to emerald and so on. After over 4000 years of development, the brilliance of the art has attracted many to art. Porcelain without a shadow of doubt still attracts the interest of many people.
Chinese Architecture can simply be defined as an architectural technique that has dominated East Asia over the years and can be traced back in Chinese ancient times of Tang Dynasty. From early times it used the thought from Chinese cosmology such as Feng Shui which is based on the art of five phases of their art and system. Connected with this phases are colors, seasons and shapes all of which are interacting with each other based on a particular directional energy flow from one phase to the next.
This building technique has had a major influence on the architectural styles of countries like Vietnam, Japan, Turkistan and Korea just to mention a few. The most important feature in Chinese architectural is the stress on articulation and bilateral symmetry which signifies balance which are found everywhere in Chinese architectural buildings from the palaces to the humble farmhouse. Use of certain color, numbers and certain cardinal directional in Chinese architectural reflects a belief to a type of immanence where nature of an object could be wholly contained in its own form.
Chinese Bronze is yet another example of Chinese art. It was one of the major arts during the 'First Bronze Age' from the Shang to the Han dynasties. The Shang dynasty was more concerned with immortality and focused on the 'Cult of the Dead.' Kings and their officials would construct and decorate their tombs and place intricately fashioned bronze vessels and weapons near their coffins. These were meant to provide comfort and protection in the next life. Contrary to this, the Han dynasty focused on 'Celebrating of the Living.' The two dynasties lived in a period that is referred to as the 'Early Chinese Bronze.' The art was whole encompassing covering both aspects of culture. These included traditions and innovations, religious and secular images as well as both native and foreign ideas.
Bronze (produced by mixing copper and tin) was perceived to be a superior form of copper because of its unique features. It was more fluid when hot and harder when cold and this made it easier for it to be cast into bowls and weapons among other artifacts. The artists came up with a refined method of mixing the two in that they smelted them separately and melted them in controlled proportions. They used simple tools such as a bamboo brush and a wooden beater but came up with looms, kilns and foundries. This indeed proves that despite using simple tools, the artists had a unique understanding of complex production procedures.
Chinese Jade is any of the carved-jade objects produced in China. They can also be called beautiful stones. Chinese people regarded these items as valuable and they symbolically compare them to human qualities because of their hardness, beauty and also more importantly their culture meaning and humanity. For instance their hardness was equated to sureness of intelligence and their soft angles to justice. The good and lengthy sound they produce when hit is compared to sweet music.
Jades were related to ceremonial rituals, they were used were commonly used as sacrificial vessels and were often buried with the dead to preserve the body of the dead. Chinese regard Jade not only as valuable but also a symbol of power in the ancient time. Because of jades stands for beauty, purity and elegance they have been used in many Chinese Idioms to denote beautiful things and also beautiful people such as 'Yu Nv' meaning a beautiful girl.
Lacquer is also an example of art from China. It is a type of vanish that dries by solvent evaporation to produce a hard and durable finish that can be polished. Its history in China can be traced back to as early as the New Stone Age. Artists made it from the sap of lacquer trees that are well distributed in mainland China. It was first produced during the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties. Chinese artists used a variety ways to capture the essence of the object. Paintings from the West use colors to convey shadows, tones and a sense of space. Chinese Traditional Sumi-e painters uses only black ink (Sumi-e is Japanese monochrome painting that has its origin in China). They take black as the highest simplification of color.
In practice, the artists also engage in meditation. The entire painting process ranging from preparation of the painting materials to the painting exercise is spiritual. It is associated with being mindful and with a lot of contemplation as well. They do not undermine the role of nature in their art. Inanimate objects are not to be painted as it is assumed they are part of the unseen living forces at work. Linz (2007) argues that the nature world was not an object for them to make a true copy of. It was rather an element for them to build their world. These artists also use brushes made using a variety of hairs. Most of them are made using goat, wolf and deer hairs. Badger and horse hairs are used once in a while. The head of the brush is tailored to allow for both heavy and light strokes as well as toning. Different tonal values are created and at the same time there is change in shape and form of the line.
In addition, Chinese artists use ready-made inks. Such are more affordable and requires no preparation time. Pigment particles in these inks are normally larger and they reflect less light. They therefore appear less shaded as well as less three dimensional. This feature makes liquid inks better for calligraphy. It is argued that in figure paintings, the clothes and the appearance were not very important. The eyes were the spirit and the decisive factor (Mobile Reference, 2007). The artist therefore concentrated on capturing this part of the painting best as opposed to other less emphasized areas.