masters are best known for some particular one. Han Kan was famous for his horses, the models for succeeding generations of painters, both Chinese and Japanese. A specimen of his brush is in the British Museum; and in the same collection is a long roll which gives a glimpse of the landscape of this age. It is a copy by a great master of the Yuen dynasty, Chao Mêng-fu, from a famous painting by Wang Wei, representing scenes on the Wang Chʽuan, the latter’s home (Plate I. fig. 3 shows a fragment). With the Tʽang age landscape matured, and two schools arose, one headed by Wang Wei, the other by Li Ssü-hsün. The style of Wang Wei, who was equally famous as a poet, had a romantic idealist character—disdainful of mere fact—which in later developments created the “literary man’s picture” of the Southern school, as opposed to the vigorous naturalism of the North.
Next come five brief dynasties, memorable less for any corporate
style or tradition, than for some fine painters
like Hsü Hsi, famous for his flowers, and Huang
Chʽuan, a great master in a delicate style. Two
pictures by him, fowls and peonies, of extraordinary
(A.D. 907–960). beauty, are in the British Museum.
The empire, which had been broken up, was reunited, though
shorn of its outer dependencies, under the house of Sung.
This was an age of culture in which the freedom of
the individual was proclaimed anew; glorious in art
as in poetry and philosophy; the period which
(A.D. 960–1280). for Asia stands in history as the Periclean age for Europe.
The religious paintings of Li Lung-mien, the grandest of Sung masters, if less forcible than those of Tʽang, were unsurpassed in harmonious rhythm of design and colour. But the most characteristic painting of this period is in landscape and nature-subjects. With a passion unmatched in Europe till Wordsworth’s day, the Sung artists portrayed their delight in mountains, mists, plunging torrents, the flight of the wild geese from the reed-beds, the moonlit reveries of sages in forest solitudes, the fisherman in his boat on lake or stream. To them also, steeped in the Zen philosophy of contemplation, a flowering branch was no mere subject for a decorative study, but a symbol of the infinite life of nature. A mere hint to the spectator’s imagination is often all that they rely on; proof of the singular fulness and reality of the culture of the time. The art of suggestion has never been carried farther. Such traditional subjects as “Curfew from a Distant Temple” and “The Moon over Raging Waves” indicate the poetic atmosphere of this art. Ma Yuan, Hsia Kuei and the emperor Hwei-tsung are among the greatest landscape artists of this period. They belong to the South Sung school, which loved to paint the gorges and towering rock-pinnacles of the Yangtsze. The sterner, less romantic scenery of the Hwang-Ho inspired the Northern school, of which Kuo Hsi and Li Chʽeng were famous among many others. Muh Ki was one of the greatest masters of the ink sketch; Chao Tan Lin was famed for his tigers; Li Ti for his flowers as for his landscapes; Mao I for still-life: to name a few among a host.
The Mongol dynasty continues in art the Sung tradition.
Chao Mêng-fu, the greatest master of his time, belongs to both
periods, and ranks with the highest names in Chinese
painting. A landscape by him, copied from Wang
Wei, has been already mentioned as in the British
(A.D. 1280–1368). Museum, which also has two specimens of Yen Hui, a painter less known in his own country than in Japan. He painted especially figures of Taoist legend. The portrait by Chʽien Shun-chü (Plate I. fig. 5) is a fine example of purity of line and lovely colour, reminding us of Greek art.
The simplicity of motive and directness of execution which
had been the strength of the Sung art gradually gave way during
the Ming era to complicated conceptions and elaborate
effects. The high glow of life faded; the lyrical temper
and impassioned work of the Sung time were replaced
(A.D. 1368–1644). by love of ornament and elegance. In this respect Kiu Ying is typical of the period, with his richly coloured scenes from court life (Plate I. fig. 6). None the less, there were a number of painters who still upheld the grander style of earlier ages. The greatest of these was Lin Liang (Plate I. fig. 7), whose brush work, if somewhat coarser, is as powerful as that of the Sung masters. But though individual painters of the first rank preserved the Ming age from absolute decline, it cannot be said that any new development of importance took place in a vitalizing direction.
The present dynasty prolongs the history of Ming art. The literary school of the South became more prominent, sending out offshoots in Japan. There has been no movement of national life to be reflected in art, though a great body of admirable painting has been produced, down Tsing dynasty (from A.D. 1644). to the present day. The four landscape masters known as the “four Wangs,” Yün Shou-pʽing and Wu Li are pre-eminent names.
Sources and Authorities.—While the designs on porcelain, screens, &c., have long been admired in the West, the paintings of which these are merely reproductions have been utterly ignored. Ignorance has gained authority with time, till the very existence of a great school of Chinese painting has been denied. Materials for study are scanty. Fires, wars and the recent armed ravages of Western civilization have left but little. The profound indifference of the Chinese to European admiration has prevented their collections from being known. The Japanese, always enthusiastic students and collectors of the continental art, claim (whether justly or not, is hard to ascertain) that the finest specimens are now in their country. Many of these are reproduced in the invaluable Tokyo publications, the Kokka, Mr Tajima’s Select Relics, &c., with Japanese criticisms in English. Of actual paintings the British Museum possesses a fair number, and the Louvre a few, of real importance. Copies and forgeries abound.
See H. A. Giles, Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art (1905); F. Hirth, Scraps from a Collector’s Note-Book (1905), (supplements Giles’s work and especially valuable for the art of the Chʽing dynasty); S. W. Bushell, Chinese Art, vol. ii. (1906); K. Okakura, Ideals of the East (1903); M. Paléologue, L’Art chinois (1887); W. Anderson, Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Paintings (1886); Sei-ichi Taki, “Chinese Landscape Painting,” The Kokka, Nos. 191, &c. (1906); Chinesische Malereien aus der Sammlung Hirth (Catalogue of an exhibition held at Dresden) (1897); W. von Seidlitz, article in Kunstchronik (1896–1897), No. 16.
2. Engraving.—According to native historians, the art of printing from wooden blocks was invented in China in the 6th century A.D., when it was employed for the publication of texts. The earliest evidence we have for the existence of woodcuts made to reproduce pictures or drawings is a passage in a work by Chang Yen-yüan, from which it appears that these were not made before the beginning of the Tʽang dynasty, under which that author lived. The method employed was to cut the design with a knife on the plank of the wood, in the manner followed by European artists till the end of the 18th century, when engraving with a burin on boxwood ousted the older process. The Japanese borrowed the art from China; and in Japan a whole school of artists arose who worked specially for the woodcutters and adapted their designs to the limitations of the material employed. In China the art has remained merely reproductive, and its history is therefore of less interest. Printing in colours was known to the Chinese in the 17th century, and probably earlier. In the British Museum is a set of prints brought from the East by Kaempfer in 1693, in which eight colours and elaborate gauffrage are used. Some fine albums of colour prints have been issued in China, but nothing equal in beauty to the prints produced in Japan by the co-operation of woodcutter and designer. Engraving on copper was introduced to China by the Jesuits, and some well-known sets of prints illustrating campaigns in Mongolia were made in the 18th century. But the method has never proved congenial to the artists of the Far East.
See Sir R. K. Douglas, Guide to the Chinese and Japanese Illustrated Books (British Museum, 1887); W. Anderson, Japanese Wood Engraving (1895).
3. Architecture.—In architecture the Chinese genius has found but limited and uncongenial expression. A nation of painters has built picturesquely, but this picturesqueness has fought against the attainment of the finest architectural qualities. There has been little development; the arch, for instance, though known to the Chinese from very early times, has been scarcely used as a principle of design, and the cupola has been undiscovered or ignored; and though foreign architectural ideas were introduced under the influence of the Buddhist and Mahommedan religions, these were more or less assimilated and subdued to the dominant Chinese design. Ruins scarcely exist and no building earlier than the 11th century A.D. is known; but we know from records that the forms of architecture still