Chinese painting Guo hua

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Traditional Chinese painting is an independent phenomenon in the world of art. There are many differences between Chinese and Western art of painting, including philosophy, composition, themes, shapes, and mediums. However Chinese art is recognized both in its homeland and among the Western world connoisseurs.


Chinese painters are trying to capture the essence of objects they paint, as opposed to creating an exact copy of them. The Chinese believe that a painting should possess Qi, which means to be full of life and vital energy. Qi is often described as the “essence” of Chinese art. This can be achieved by following certain principles or by being in a certain state of mind.


Chinese artists often depict the same objects. Artistic mastery is often expressed through an interpretation of the plot. Paintings of Chinese artists are replete of symbolism. A Chinese artist talks about the meaning of life even when portraying flowers.


Chinese painters try to capture the “moment in time”, which depicts only a part of a large story. We admire Chinese art because just a few brushstrokes are enough to create a scene or a narrative content, which conveys its “essence” or “spirit”. Therefore, each brushstroke and even blank spaces on paper are important, all that leaves some room for further interpretation and imagination. Perfect painting is said to be a blank sheet of white paper because a viewer can contemplate it every day to see something new.


Eastern art continues to live and change in the eyes of the viewer. The intentional uncertainty always leaves room for co-creation between art and an audience.



A Western artist painted expecting that his masterpieces will be able to compete with eternity. Horace compared his poems with perpetual “majestic pyramids”. The Chinese famed Song-dynasty poet official Su Shi, known as Su Dongpo (1036-1101), compared his writing with a “massive water flow”. This clearly shows the difference between Eastern and Western cultures: a pyramid faces the challenges of time, while a river itself symbolizes time; fluid water has more power than a solid rock.


There are two main Chinese brush painting techniques: gongbi (meaning “meticulous brush”) – it’s a thorough realist painting technique, and xieyi (“expression of the idea”) - freehand style.

These styles, in turn, are divided into genres: shan shui (mountains and water), hua niao (flowers and birds) and ren wu (people and things). In a certain way than can be matched to Western European genre art, landscape and portrait painting.


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