Chinese art has varied throughout its ancient history, divided into periods by the ruling dynasties of China and changing technology. Different forms of art have been influenced by great philosophers, teachers, religious figures and even political leaders. Chinese art encompasses fine arts, folk arts and performance arts.
With their stress on simplicity and economy, Chinese calligraphy, painting, and poetry are closely related. In all of them, the artist seeks to express both inner harmony and harmony with the natural surroundings. Chinese poets and painters often have sought inspiration by withdrawing to isolated, mountainous areas, and these landscapes have become conventional themes of Chinese art. Similarly, Chinese architecture has traditionally aimed to convey harmony with society and nature.
Early forms of art in China were made from pottery and jade in the Neolithic period, to which was added bronze in the Shang Dynasty. In early imperial China, porcelain was introduced and was refined to the point that in English the word china has become synonymous with high-quality porcelain. One of the oldest and most basic forms of Chinese art is calligraphy, the painting of the Chinese characters with a brush. Calligraphy has developed as a pure art form with its own standards of excellence. Building on the tradition of calligraphy, Chinese painting developed a distinctive style that differs greatly from Western painting.
Around the 1st century AD, Buddhism arrived in China, though it did not become popular until the 4th century. At this point, Chinese Buddhist art began to flourish, a process which continued through the 20th century. It was during the period of Imperial China that calligraphy and painting became highly appreciated arts in court circles, with a great deal of work done on silk until well after the invention of paper. Buddhist architecture and sculpture thrived in the Sui and Tang dynasty.
Late imperial China was marked by two specific dynasties: Ming and Qing. Artwork in the Ming dynasty perfected color painting and color printing, with a wider color range and busier compositions than Song paintings. In the Qing dynasty, Beijing opera was introduced; it is considered the one of the best-known forms of Chinese opera.
New forms of Chinese art were heavily influenced by the New Culture Movement, which adopted Western techniques, introduced oil painting and employed socialist realism. The market of Chinese contemporary art is widely reported to be among the hottest and fastest-growing in the world, attracting buyers all over the world.
Today, the market of Chinese art is widely reported to be among the hottest and fastest-growing in the world, attracting buyers all over the world. In terms of buying-market, China recently overtook France becoming the world's third-largest art market, after the United States and the United Kingdom, due to the growing middle-class in the country.