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.

Han Xizai Gives A Night Banquet (《韩熙载夜宴图》)

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Han Xizai Gives A Night Banquet is a scroll drawn by Gu Hongzhong, a painter in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960). It is now housed in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

The main character Han Xizai in the painting was a high official in Southern Tang, but later attracted suspicion from the Emperor Li Yu. To protect himself, Han pretended to withdraw from politics and become addicted to a befuddled life full of entertainment. Li sent Gu from the Imperial Academy to record Han's private life, leading Gu to produce this famous artwork.

This painting, depicting scenes of Han's banquet, narrates through five distinct sections: Han Xizai listens to the pipa (a Chinese instrument) with his guests; Han beats a drum for the dancers; Han takes a rest during the break; Han listens to the wind music; and the guests talk with the singers. There are more than 40 characters in the paintings, all of the lifelike figures with different expressions and postures. The painting was Gu's most well-known work, as well as one of the most outstanding artwork from the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.

A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains (《千里江山图》)

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A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains by Wang Ximeng, Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), is a landscape painting masterpiece of ancient China. It is now part of the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Wang was one of the most renowned palace painters of the time. He became a student of the Imperial Painting Academy, and was taught personally by Emperor Huizong of Song. He finished this painting when he was only 18. Unfortunately, as a genius painter, he died very young in his 20s.

The hand scroll is 1,191.5 cm long and 51.5 cm wide. Heavy ink strokes of black and other colors vividly depict mountains, lakes, villages, houses, bridges, ships pavilions and people. It is one of the largest paintings in Chinese history and has been described as one of the greatest works.

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (《富春山居图》)

Dwelling

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains is the magnum opus and one of the few surviving works by the painter Huang Gongwang in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Many consider him a member of the four great masters of the Yuan. He spent his last years in the Fuchun Mountains near Hangzhou and completed this painting in 1350.

The painting was drawn in black ink on paper. It vividly portrays the beautiful landscape on the banks of Fuchun River, rendering the mountains, trees, clouds and villages and capturing the essence of the natural scenes in Southern China. It is regarded as the best landscape ink painting in China's art history.

Unfortunately, the masterpiece was damaged by fire and split into two pieces in 1650. Today, the first piece, 51.4 cm long and 31.8 cm wide, is kept in the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou, while the second piece, 636.9 cm long and 33 cm wide, is kept in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Spring Morning in the Han Palace(《汉宫春晓图》)

Spring

Spring Morning in the Han Palace was drawn by Qiu Ying, who specialized in the gongbi brush technique. He was regarded as one of the Four Great Masters of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Qiu's use of the brush was meticulous and refined, and his depictions of landscapes and figures were orderly and well-proportioned. In addition to his paintings being elegant and refined, they are also quite decorative.

This particular painting is 574.1 cm long and 30.6 cm wide. This hand scroll work is a representation of various daily activities in the palace in the early spring, such as enjoying the zither, watering and arranging flowers, and playing chess. There are 115 characters in the painting, most of them concubines. There are also imperial children, eunuchs and painters. The painting is rendered with crisp brushwork and vivid colors. Trees and rocks decorate and punctuate the garden scenery of the lavish palace architecture.

One Hundred Horses(《百骏图》)

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One Hundred Horses was drawn by Lang Shining in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Lang was a missionary from Italy with birth name Giuseppe Castiglione. Working as a court painter in China for over 50 years, his talent in painting was regarded highly by Chinese emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong. He helped to create a hybrid style that combined the Western realism with traditional Chinese composition and brushwork.

Lang was skilled at painting horses, and One Hundred Horses is one of his representative works. This paper painting, 813 cm long and 102 cm wide, captures 100 horses in various postures. They are kneeling, standing, eating and running on the grassland – staying alone and among groups. The artwork is now preserved in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

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