Comprehensive Chinese Information and Chinese Art Culture Guide
Welcome to Chinainfoonline, you can find a complete guide to information on Chinese arts, Chinese histroy and culture. China has its ancient recorded history, and has maintained control of its boundaries almost without invasion.
The fact that both literature and the arts in China reveal a striking interdependence over several millennia tends to support the view that China's culture is equally uninterrupted. However, Chinese culture as exemplified in the arts and applied arts is not a pure tradition.
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While curiosity and a love of exotic motifs borrowed from neighbours to east and west have helped to shape a great technical mastery and a rich vocabulary of style, a love of tradition has ensured that homogeneity persists. Whenever motifs and styles are assimilated into the Chinese tradition, they recur throughout the centuries, in line with the taste for archaism which runs throughout much of Chinese art. This taste in itself encourages the view that China has a monolithic and self-sufficient artistic culture.
One of the most influential introductions was the acceptance of Buddhism in the second century BC, which brought a new religious and philosophical culture and its attendant art and iconography. New styles of figure painting and sculpture were required, as well as new patterns of temple layout, furnishing and decoration; their assimilation took many centuries.
The inspiration for much Buddhist art came from Central Asian traditions, which were in their turn derived from North Indian originals. In China, the iconography of Buddhism has played an important part in both sculpture and painting. Large-scale sculpture had previously not been a significant native art form, but, by the fifth and sixth centuries, imposing reliefs and free-standing stone figures were produced for cave temples and wooden buildings. Tibetan, Mongol and Mughal art styles enjoyed periods of popularity and influence in China in the Middle Ages and later, but their effect has generally been less far-reaching.
As Chinese society became increasingly stratified, so more varied styles of art were required in a greater variety of materials. A mastery of surface decoration evolved in China from an early stage, whether carved in stone or cast in metal. The motifs used survive to this day as painted decoration on ceramics.
Since the reign of the Han dynasty, painting and calligraphy have been the most highly esteemed branches of expressive art. Practised by the literati, these arts have been woven into their philosophy of life. Calligraphy, long regarded as a serious art form, is expressive of the strength of character of the writer and therefore capable of transmitting far more than words.
During this century, for political and ideological reasons, we have witnessed an attempt to introduce a foreign style (in the form of Russian oil painting and sculpture) to fill a supposed gap within native contemporary arts. Institutions have been established to train painters and sculptors to produce 'official art' commissioned by the state in a style and medium foreign to the established Chinese styles. In its present form, this is perhaps a transitory movement, but it remains one which has brought about an enormous change in art training and greater understanding of the uses of art which might have lasting effects in China.
It is testament to the stability of Chinese society that the arts and applied arts in China all seem to share a recognizable style, despite their continuous assimilation of foreign ideas. For so mercantile a society, contact abroad has been made largely through trade, even if at times that trade was regarded as tribute and exchanges a matter of courtesy. Any attempt to characterize the Chinese style must incorporate the complexity of a culture constructed without discarding anything over five thousand years. A peculiarly sophisticated handling of archaism seems to have kept a self-confident taste intact, and created a many-faceted style.