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Themes of Chinese Painting

Traditional Chinese Painting is known well as Guohua(guó huà国画) in China. It can be divided into figure painting, landscape and flower-bird painting in general accrding to the different themes of paintings.
Figure painting

Figure painting(人物画,rén wù huà) is a common name for paintings describing human being mainly. Compared with other two themes, it has a longer history. The earliest figure painting could be traced to paintings on the pottery or tomb walls  in Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty, in some burial sites, we could even find paintings were preserved on silk banners, lacquered objects.From the Han (202 BC) to the Tang (618–906) dynasties, figure painting was a main stream in art circles at that time. When Buddhism was introduced into China in Han Dynasty, figure of Buddha became the most important drawing materials. We even could find gorgeous grottoes housing a mass of portraits of Buddha, such as Yungang(云岗) Gottoes,Longmen(龙门) Grottoes, Dunhuang(敦煌) Grottoes in the north of China and wall paintings of Buddha in the South. Somehow, seeing the great influence that painting art of Buddha to the development of Buddhism, Taoists started to draw paintings of immortals, and this idea was accepted in all the Taoist temples and folk. After Tang Dynasty, more and more painters specilized on figure paintings.But starting from Yuan Dynasty,figure painting declined.

Chinese figure painting strives to indicate vivid people’s character by the render of environments, atmospheres, bodies and actions, then make a person a unity of form and spirit. Besides imagines of Buddhism and Taoism, emperors and beauties are also the main subjects in figure painting.

Themes of Chinese Painting

Gu Kaizhi, Eastern Jin, Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies

Themes of Chinese Painting

Wu Daozi, Tang Dynasty, a part of  the Scroll of the Eighty-seven Immortals

Landscape is a kind of painting describing natural scenes.The subject of landscape covers scenery like mountains, rivers, lakes, valleys, forests,stones, houses, towers, pavilions, boats, bridges,  weather like windy, rainy, snowy and cloudy,as well as  four seasons.Some of these small subjects were arranged into a coherent composition, then a painting with a wide view formed.
In the Wei and Jin Dynasties as well as in the Northern and Southern Dynasties,landscape were still backgrounds for figures. From Sui and Tang dynasties, it became independent and ways of creations also got richful. The time from the Five Dynasties period to the Northern Song period (907–1127) was known as the "Great age of Chinese landscape".From Tang Dynasty on, although artists had different life experiences and accomplishments and came from different schools, all of them were good at using strong black lines, ink wash, and sharp, dotted brushstrokes and a softer and rubbed brushwork.  

Themes of Chinese PaintingThemes of Chinese PaintingThemes of Chinese Painting

 Mount Lu, Jinghao,the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in Northern China

Travellers among Mount Guan, Guan Tong,,the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in Northern China

Travellers among Mountains and Streams, Fan Kuan, Northern Song


Flower-Bird Painting
The subjects of flower-bird paintings are not just including flowers and birds, but also trees, insects, animals,vegetables,fruits, etc. Before Wei and Jin Dynasties as well as in the Northern and Southern Dynasties, as a theme of Chinese painting, flowers and birds always appeared on the pottery and bronze ware in a ornamentation way.But, attentions to flowers, plants, birds and animals caused the emergence of flower-bird painting directly. The historical records showed that quite a few unattached flower-bird paintings appeared in Wei and Jin Dynasties as well as in the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Although these milestone works did not come down, we still could get that the painting skills of flower-bird painting has reached to a high level through the background of figure paintings at that time.Flower-bird painting became an independent theme since Tang Dynasty.
Themes of Chinese PaintingThemes of Chinese PaintingThemes of Chinese Painting

Plum Blossoms in Early Spring, Wang Mian

Lotus and two birds,Zhu Da

Horse, Xu Beihong

Themes of Chinese Painting

 Bamboo and Rocks, Zheng Xie





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