The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Chinese Art from the Sui to the Yuan Dynasties, C. 589–1368

What are major characteristics of Chinese painting from the Sui to the Yuan Dynasties?

The range of Chinese art covered in this chapter is immense, and while it is difficult to summarize such a varied history into one answer, there are indeed important attributes common to many examples of Chinese painting from this time period. Unlike medieval painters in Europe, Chinese painters did not paint on wood panels. Instead, they painted on silk or paper, usually with water-based inks and colorful pigments. The practice of painting was considered an intellectual exercise with close ties to Confucian and Buddhist philosophies. Early Chinese paintings often exhibit a balance of seemingly spontaneous movement with thoughtful calm. Artists favored landscapes and nature scenes, as well as realistic figurative paintings.


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