Jul 22, 2013

Chinese paintings feature some of the world's longest held artistic disciplines and traditions. These paintings with an array of distinctive oriental styles record China's long history and reflect its beautiful landscapes. The following are the 10 most famous paintings of China, in no particular order.

Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival(《清明上河图》)


Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival (Along the River During the Qingming Festival) is a panoramic painting by Zhang Zeduan, an artist in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It is the only existing masterpiece from Zhang, and has been collected by the Palace Museum in Beijing as a national treasure.

The hand scroll painting is 528.7 cm long and 24.8 cm wide. It provides a window to the period's economic activities in urban and rural areas, and captures the daily life of people of all ranks in the capital city of Bianjing (today's Kaifeng, Henan Province) during Qingming Festival in the Northern Song Dynasty. It is an important historical reference material for the study of the city then as well as the life its residents rich and poor.

The painting is composed of three parts: spring in the rural area, busy Bianhe River ports, and prosperous city streets. The painting is also known for its geometrically accurate images of variety natural elements and architectures, boats and bridges, market place and stores, people and scenery. Over 550 people in different clothes, expressions and postures are shown in the painting. It is often considered to be the most renowned work among all the Chinese paintings, and it has been called China's Mona Lisa.

Nymph of the Luo River (《洛神赋图》)


Nymph of the Luo River by Gu Kaizhi of Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) illustrates a romantic poem by Cao Zhi from the state of Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. The copy collected by the Palace Museum in Beijing is a facsimile of the original made during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The narrative silk scroll depicts the meeting and the eventual separation of Cao Zhi and the Nymph of the Luo River; the art captures the tension through the composition of the figures, stones, trees and mountains. The painting is one of the most important Chinese artworks, representing the beginning of the development of Chinese landscape paintings.

Emperor Taizong Receiving the Tibetan Envoy (《步辇图》)


Emperor Taizong Receiving the Tibetan Envoy painter Yan Liben was one of the most revered Chinese figure painters in the early years of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The painting is a work of both historical and artistic value, collected by the Palace Museum in Beijing.

The painting is 129.6 cm long and 38.5 cm wide, drawn on the tough silk, depicting the friendly encounter between the Tang dynasty and Tubo in 641.

In the painting, the emperor sits on a sedan surrounded by maids holding fans and canopy. He looks composed and peaceful. On the left, one person in red is the official in the royal court. The envoy stands aside formally and holds the emperor in awe. The last person is an interpreter.

Noble Ladies in Tang Dynasty(《唐宫仕女图》)


Noble Ladies in Tang Dynasty are a serial of paintings drawn by Zhang Xuan and Zhou Fang, two of the most influential figure painters during the Tang dynasty (618–907), when the paintings of noble ladies became very popular.

The paintings depict the leisurely, lonely and peaceful life of the ladies at court, who are shown to be beautiful, dignified and graceful. Zhang Xuan was famous for integrating lifelikeness and casting a mood when painting life scenes of noble families. Zhou Fang was known for drawing the full-figure court ladies with soft and bright colors.

The paintings are spread around in the collections of museums nationwide.

Five Oxen (《五牛图》)


Five Oxen is a painting by Han Huang, a prime minister in the Tang Dynasty (618–907). The painting was lost during the occupation of Beijing by the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900 and later recovered from a collector in Hong Kong during the early 1950s. Now it is stored in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

The painting is 139.8 cm long and 20.8 cm wide. The five oxen in varied postures and colors in the painting are drawn with thick, heavy and earthy brushstrokes. They are endowed with subtle human characteristics, delivering the spirit of the willingness to bear the burden of hard labor without complaints.

Most of the paintings recovered from ancient China are of flowers, birds and human figures. This painting is the only one with oxen as its subject that are represented so vividly, making the painting one of the best animal paintings in China's art history.

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