Chinese Art — Aesthetic, Characteristic, and Form 









Gold Filigree

Gold Filigree















Aesthetic in Chinese Culture


Influences of Taoism — Natural and Simple


Taoism, one of the most influential philosophical schools in Chinese culture, values plainness, and simplicity. 


Therefore, beauty is the primitive color white and black, the unadorned lotus flower in water, or the fresh sky after a rain. 


Since Taoism was formed by Lao Zi around 2500 years ago, this natural aesthetic has played an important role in Chinese art. 

Jade Cup of the Wei Kingdom (220 — 266)

Jade Cup of the  Wei Kingdom (220 — 266) — Luoyang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Royal Art — Fancy and Exquisite


Confucianism, the dominant philosophical school in the history of China, values clear hierarchy and fancy etiquette. 


Color and Pattern, then, became important elements that represent one’s social status and occupation when some of them were exclusively used by the royals in the recent millennium. 


Therefore, more items that could show one’s nobility and wealth were used in royal art, such as valuable gold and gem, exquisite embroideries, fancy jade pendant, etc.

Golden Gem Cup of Emperor Qian Long (1711 — 1799)

Golden Gem Cup of Emperor Qian Long (1711 — 1799) — Palace Museum

Chinese Artist


Throughout history, there were two main groups of artists: professional artisan and literate scholar. 




They were professionals who were specialized in a certain type of art, such as painting, pottery, sculpture, etc.


Most of them were taught by their family or a professional master. Those extremely talented ones would be selected to work for the royals. 


In ancient China, the artisan was an inferior occupation to the peasant. 


Literate Scholar:

In ancient Chinese culture, literate Scholar was considered as the ruling class. It included emperors and nobles who were accessible to education in ancient times and those who obtained good scores in the Imperial Examination.  


They usually were good at many artistic forms, such as calligraphy, painting, poem, music, etc. 


Unlike professional artisans, they had the highest social status, and mostly did arts as hobbies or means to express their feelings.  

Chinese Painting


Painting, one of the most ancient art forms, could be drawn on walls, fabric, paper, pottery, and stone.

Landscape Painting by Wang Ximeng (1096 — 1119)

Part of Painting Thousands Miles of Mountains and Rivers (Qian Li Jiang Shan Tu) (1191.5 cm × 51.5 cm). By  Artist Wang Ximeng (1096 — 1119) — The Palace Museum



Mural on the wall of graves was quite popular in ancient China when people believed that a fancy tomb could make sure the decedent’s soul can live a comfortable life after death. 


Therefore, Grave Murals mostly included the master’s detailed life experiences, achievements, property, as well as a wonderous world where the decedent’s soul would be living in that was guarded by mythical animals and beautiful clouds and stars. 

Grave Mural of Eastern Han Dynasty (25 — 220) 7.3 m × 0.7m

Grave Mural of Eastern Han Dynasty (25 — 220) 7.3 m × 0.7m

Frescos on the wall of Palaces became popular after the first unified empire, the Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC), was established. 


Palace Fresco was usually quite fancy and exquisite. Famous sages, meritorious officials, and respectable immortals were the most frequent contents. 


Centuries later, Taoism Religion was formed, later Buddhism was introduced to China. Since then, Religion Mural has become an essential painting form in Chinese culture.

Portion of Dunhuang Mural of Mogao Grottoes (around 618 — 907)

A Portion of Dunhuang Mural of Mogao Grottoes (Around 618 — 907) 

Earliest Existing Silk Painting in China, from Ma Wang Dui Tomb

Earliest Existing Silk Painting in China, from Ma Wang Dui Tomb

Traditional Chinese Painting


From painting on fabric to paper, traditional Chinese painting consists of three main subjects: figure, landscape, and animal. 


They are less focused on perspective, light, and precise similarity; instead, the conception, wholeness, line, and blank-leaving are highly valued. 

Figure Painting by Emperor Huizong of Song (1082 — 1135)

Figure Painting by

Emperor Zhao Ji (1082 — 1135)

Landscape Painting by Tang Yin (1470 — 1524)

Landscape Painting by

Tang Yin (1470 — 1524)

Animal Painting by Lv Ji (Around 1429 — 1505)

Animal Painting by

Lv Ji (Around 1429 — 1505)

New Year Picture


Around 2000 years ago, Chinese people started to paste lucky pictures, include couplets, on doors and windows, pray for fortune, and to celebrate the Spring Festival


New Year Pictures originally were images of immortals, then influential historical figures like brave generals, whom people believe would protect their family from evil forces. 


Soon, lucky animals, flowers, legendary figures, landscapes, beauty, and cute babies were added to New Year Paintings, which represent people’s beautiful wishes.


Nowadays, different types of New Year Pictures are still quite popular among the Chinese.

New Year Picture of Door Gods in the Forbidden City
Traditional New Year Picture in Chinese Culture




As famous artist Zhao Mengfu (1254 — 1322) had said before, calligraphy is another form of painting. 

Calligraphy of Artist Zhao Mengfu

Calligraphy Work by Artist Zhao Mengfu (1254 — 1322) — Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Chinese Calligraphy is a type of art that tells stories, history, and spirit in Chinese culture.


It uses Chinese Brush and Ink to write Han Zi on paper, stone, or fabric. In ancient times, people wrote to record life experiences, express emotion, commemorate important people, and document history. 


In Chinese culture, the handwriting style is believed to the representative of one’s personality. 


Appreciating Chinese Calligraphy 


Nowadays, besides those who studied calligraphy, it is not very easy for ordinary Chinese people to appreciate calligraphy works. 


One of the most important reason is that appreciating Chinese Calligraphy consists of many aspects: 


  • Apply and strength of Chinese brush;


  • Order and structure of writing stroke;


  • Arrangement of all characters and blank;


  • Use of ink and water.


Moreover, there are five main calligraphic fonts in history (Zhuan, Li, Kai, Xing, and Cao), and each of them has several branches that have their special writing skills and stroke arrangements. 

Calligraphy of Artist Su Shi (1037 — 1101)

Calligraphy Work by Artist Su Shi (1037 — 1101) — Taipei Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Story and Spirit behind Calligraphy 


Han Zi on bones and tortoise shells, and those on bronze vessels, are telling important historical activities that happened over 3000 years ago. 


Since the Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC), carving Han Zi on stone became famous in China. Those Stone Inscriptions were used to:


  • Eulogize exceptional reign, such as those in worship ceremonies on Mount Tai;


  • Appreciate amazing scenery;


  • Commemorate decedents, such as those Han Zi carved on tombstones or walls;


  • Record religious scripture and story.


Besides those giant Stone Inscriptions, seal carving that is used as a representative of one’s status is also quite famous. 


Official seals that were authorized by the emperor were standard, square, and valuable, which represents paramount power and strong execution.


Private seals, however, could be artistically designed by the owner; jade, metal, and wood are all normal materials to make seals. 

Queen's Jade Seal of the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC — 8 BC)

Queen's Jade Seal of the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC — 8 BC) — Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Nowadays, many Chinese are still writing calligraphy in their spare time, as a means of self cultivating. Besides those ancient masterpieces, people would use calligraphy works with famous proverbs or their favorite mottoes as decoration.