Chinese art is visual art that, whether ancient or modern, originated in or is practiced in China or by Chinese artists. The Chinese art in the Republic of China (Taiwan) and that of overseas Chinese can also be considered part of Chinese art where it is based in or draws on Chinese heritage and Chinese culture. Early "Stone Age art" dates back to 10,000 BC, mostly consisting of simple pottery and sculptures. After this early period Chinese art, like Chinese history, is typically classified by the succession of ruling dynasties of Chinese emperors, most of which lasted several hundred years.
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- Sculpture was not one of the major arts, not even a fine art, to the Chinese. By an act of rare modesty the Far East refused to class the human body under the rubric of beauty; its sculptors played a little with drapery, and used the figures of men—seldom of women—to study or represent certain types of consciousness; but they did not glorify the body. For the most part they confined their portraits of humanity to Buddhist saints and Taoist sages, ignoring the-athletes and courtesans who gave such inspiration to the artists of Greece. In the sculpture of China animals were preferred even to philosophers and saints.
- Meanwhile another influence was entering China, in the form of Buddhist theology and art. It made a home for itself first in Turkestan, and built there a civilization from which Stein and Pelliot have unearthed many tons of ruined statuary; some of it seems equal to Hindu Buddhist art at its best. The Chinese took over those Buddhist forms without much alteration, and produced Buddhas as fair as any in Gandhara or India.
- One of the best of the Chinese Buddhist shrines is the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha, near the Summer Palace outside Peking; Fergusson called it “the finest architectural achievement in China.”
- As Christianity transformed Mediterranean culture and art in the third and fourth centuries after Christ, so Buddhism, in the same centuries, effected a theological and esthetic revolution in the life of China. While Confucianism retained its political power, Buddhism, mingling with Taoism, became the dominating force in art, and brought to the Chinese a stimulating contact with Hindu motives, symbols, methods and forms. The greatest genius of the Chinese Buddhist school of painting was Ku K’ai-chih, a man of such unique and positive personality that a web of anecdote or legend has meshed him in.
- The greatest painter of the T’ang epoch, and, by common consent, of all the Far East, rose above distinctions of school, and belonged rather to the Buddhist tradition of Chinese art. Wu Tao-tze deserved his name—Wu, Master of the Tao or Way, for all those impressions and formless thoughts which Lao-tze and Chuang-tze had found too subtle for words seemed to flow naturally into line and color under his brush.