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Chinese Art
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Some Chinese art is more than three thousand years old. The Chinese people absorbed outside influences and influenced neighboring countries. Chinese architecture was only built to last one lifetime, so, for example, the palaces of the prior emperor were not subjected to any type of preservation by the next emperor. Wood was the most common material used in building. There are no buildings older than the ninth century A.D. that have survived. The only Chinese structures that were meant to last a long time were the pagodas, the bridges and the ramparts. The Chou period of Chinese history remains only in memory architecturally. The Ch'in Dynasty, which unified China was the time that the Great Wall was built, and the palaces of Ch'in Shih-huang-ti remain only in the literature of the country. Paintings, carvings and small models give an idea of the splendid palaces of the Emperors. Vaulting was only used in temples. The pagoda was first built in the 4th century A.D.; the first ones were three stories, with later pagodas being five or more stories. Many sacred buildings were destroyed because of the proscription of 485 A.D., but after that time, pagodas started being constructed of brick. The Little Pagoda of the Wild Geese was built at Hsi-an in Shensi in 652 A.D.--it was fifteen stories and has brick projections and remains the one of the last survivors of the this period. Sixty hexagonal or octagonal pagodas remain, the architect Li Chiai, wrote a treatise which was published in 1103. This work discusses geometry, carpentry and architecture done in stone or terra cotta. Although the Ming Dynasty emperors tried to revive the ancient architectural traditions, they were not successful. Emperor Yung-lo (1403-24) moved the capital to Peking, and there he built the Forbidden City, which features terraces, palaces, parks, lakes and porticoes. He also built the Temple of Heaven (1420) and the Temple of Agriculture (1422). The Ch'ing Dynasty, which followed the Ming Dynasty, rebuilt many of the structures which were burned when the Ming Dynasty fell. This dynasty also built a Summer Palace modeled after Versailles. Unfortunately, this palace was destroyed in 1860 under the orders of Lord Elgin.

Sculpture, on the other hand, has survived quite well. This category includes carved animals and figures, vases, pottery, other vessels, and, of course, Bhuddas. These artworks were made of different materials, including bronze, stone, pottery, wood and other materials. Many of them have survived the ensuing years extremely well. Excavations at An-yang, the Shang capital in Honan, have yielded a great deal of knowledge about the sculpture of the Chinese. Some of the finds at these excavations date as far back as 1300 B.C. The bronzes uncovered are exemplary examples of technical brilliance. The oldest known large-scale Chinese sculpture was found in the tomb of General Ho Ch'u-ping in Shensi and dated about 117 B.C.; the piece shows a horse running over a fallen soldier, a buffalo and a tiger. Caves were carved out of the mountains in Shansi, Kung-men, Honan, and T'ien-lung Shan. These caves show extraordinary majesty and are testimony to many anonymous Chinese sculptors. Other tombs have provided many examples of the Chinese bas-relief pieces. Pottery tomb figures include models of houses and farms, human figures of dancers and acrobats, and animals such as pigs, ducks, owls, dogs and horses. Of course, Bhudda provided much inspiration for bronze and pottery sculptors depicting him and the bodhisatvas Maitreya, Amitabha and Avalokiteshavara the Compassionate, who often are standing by his side. The Chinese were able show calm serenity in their sculptures of Bhudda. Huge animals were often sculpted out of stone to protect the tombs, and many of these are also still in existence. According to legend, fresco painting was started by the mythical "Yellow" Emperor. The earliest painting was titled "Noble Lady with a Phoenix and a Dragon". It was done on silk and is dated about the third century B.C. Although paper was not invented until 105 A.D., the Chinese style of painting on both silk and paper resembles calligraphy and was stylistically very different from other countries' paintings, especially from those paintings that were done by Western artists. Chinese painting at its best started with the Ming Huang dynasty. The landscapist Li Ssu-hsun and his son were best of the Northern School artists. The "prince of painters", Wu Tao-tzu, who lived from about A.D. 699-759, was the best representative of the Southern School. Unfortunately, none of his work has survived. As with other civilizations' art, the art of the Chinese underwent many changes throughout the years. At different times Chinese art was characterized by blurred shapes done in dramatic black, mythological scenes, Bhuddist-inspired scenes, paintings in which the empty space was the most dramatic feature, landscapes that featured blobs, brushwork techniques that rivaled the best European painters, and paintings of animals and flowers done in monochrome colors.

 
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