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Chinese Ink Painting

“Chinese ink painting is an ancient art that has evolved and become refined over many centuries.”


Starting around 4000 B.C. traditional Chinese painting has developed continuously over a period of more than six thousand years.  Its growth has inevitably reflected the changes of time and social conditions.  In its early stage of development, Chinese ink painting was closely related to the other crafts, from pottery to the decorations used on the bronzes, carved jade and lacqerware. 

Following the introduction of Buddhism to China from India during the 1st century A.D. and the consequent carving of grottoes and building of temples, the art of painting religious murals gradually gained in prominence.

The range of subject matters dealt with in figure painting was extended far beyond religious themes during the Song dynasty(960-1127),.  Paintings of historical character and stories of everyday life became extremely popular.  Techniques were also further refined. 


Landscape painting had already established itself as an independent form of expression by the 4th century.  Then gradually developed into the two separate styles of “blue-and-green landscapes” and “ink-and-wash landscape”.  The blue-and-green landscape used bright blue, green and red pigments derived from minerals to create a richly decorative style.  The ink-and wash landscape relied on vivid brushwork and varying degrees of intensity of ink to express the artist's conception of nature, and his own emotions and individuality. 

Flower-and-bird painting  was separated from decorative art to form an independent genre around the 9th century.  A great many artists painted in this genre during the Song dynasty and their subject matter included a rich variety of flowers, fruits, insects and fish.  Many of the scholar painters working with ink and brush used a great economy of line.  They  produced paintings of such things as plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, chrysanthemums, pines and cypresses, using their subject matter to reflect their own ideals and character. 


Modern painters have often mixed several colors on one brush or mixed their colors with black inks.  As a result, they have obtained more natural and richly varied colors.  Such techniques have been widely adopted and further developed in the contemporary period.

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