Chinese art: Calligraphy and the Minor Arts

The mastery of brushwork was directly related to calligraphy, traditionally regarded by the Chinese as the highest art form. Masters of calligraphy such as Wang Hsi-chih (c.303–361) and his son were revered and their works copied for the perfection of their writing. Reliance on calligraphic techniques in later painting, however, produced a sterile art of overworked formulas in painting of the 19th cent. Elegant inscriptions and poems were often included within the painting, which took the form of a handscroll, hanging scroll, or an album leaf, made of silk or paper.

The fine art of Chinese ceramics followed to some degree the development of painting, reaching its highest perfection in the Sung dynasty and its extreme technical elaboration and decorative style in the Ming. In enamel ware, lacquerware, jade, ivory, textiles, and many other of the so-called minor arts, the world owes an incalculable debt to China.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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