Chinese painting is generally divided by subject matter into four broad categories: Figures, landscapes, flowers and birds, and bamboo and rocks. The first three categories succeeded each other in the summits of their developments, while the painting of bamboo and rocks became a casual pleasure of the educated elite from the 12th century on. Before the Han dynasty, founded in 202 B.C., there was already a tradition of figure painting and portraiture of which remnants survive on later bronzes, jades, and pottery. During the Han dynasty, the art of depicting figures became increasingly elaborate. Rulers used didactic art to emphasize codes of government. Surviving examples of stone engraving and wall painting show strong and lively drawing. They are the beginning of that beauty of line that later was to become supremely important. Buddhism started to take hold in China during the 3rd century, and the consecutive introduction of Buddhist art had an extensive influence, especially in figure painting. This period also saw the emergence of famous individual artists, such as Ts'ao Pu-hsing (3rd century) , Ku K'ai-chih (4th century) and Chan Tzu-ch'ien (6th century) .
Figure painting reached its peak in the Tang dynasty (618-906), when such masters as Wu Tao-tzu, Yen Li-pen and Chou Fang dominated the category. Important figure painters of the following dynasties include Chou Wen-chu and KuHung-chung (10th century); Li
Kung-tin (11th century); Su Hanch'en (12th century); Liu Sung-nien and Li Sung (13th century); Chao Meng Fu and Liu Kuan-tao (14th century); Tang Yin, Clfiu Ying, Wu Pin, Ting Yun Peng and Chen Hung-shou of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). They all excelled in painting figures, either Buddhist, Taoist, or secular.
The art of landscape painting formed the central and most standing tradition in Chinese painting. On a basis of Taoist communion with nature and strengthened by Buddhism, there was a strong literary tradition of seclusion among, and meditation upon the forests, streams and mountains. Chinas landscape painting brought nature's presence to wherever man desired it. Elements of landscape are already present in art of the Han dynasty, but development did not really begin until the Tang dynasty.
The succeeding Northern Sung dynasty (960-1127) has often been called the Golden Age of Chinese Landscape. The differences in approach and technique that naturally appeared became gradually categorized into traditions; the northern and southern schools. The ?°northern school?± had its origin in Li Ssu-hsun and his son Li Chao-tao and continued through Chao Kan (10th century) , Chao Po-Chu and his brother Chao Po-su (12th century), and on through Ma Yuan and Hsia Kuei (13th century). The southern school originated with Wang Wei and was taken up by Chang Tsao (both 8th century). It then continued through Ching Hao, Kuan T'ung, Tung Yuan and Chu Jan (all 10th century), Kuo Chung-shu and Mi Fu ( 11th century). The aesthetic philosophy behind the Northern and southern split was largely derived from the ideas of Mi Fu and his scholastic circle. Tung Chi Chang systematized it into an historical development. Wang Wei, the patriarch of the southern School', is credited with originating a monochrome ink wash style of landscape painting called shui-mo. His paintings were filled with gracious harmony and great subtlety in the use of brush and ink. Su Shih a poet and painter in Mi Fu's circle, said of his work, ''in the poem is a painting; in the painting is a poem. This remark is a philosophic viewpoint and a literary attitude that became a foundation stone of the literati painting tradition. After the four masters of the 10th century Five Dynasties period, Li Cheng, Fan K?ˉuan, Kuo Hsi and Mi Fu represent the tradition in the Northern Sung.
In the next great flowering of ''southern school'' landscape, during the Yuan period (1279-1368), the most admired artists were Chao Meng Fu, Kao K'o-kung. Huang Kung-wang, Wang Meng, Wu Chen. Ni Tsan, Chu Te-jun and Tang Ti. During the Ming dynasty
(1368-1644) they was Wang Fu, Shen Chou, Wen Cheng-ming and Tung Chi Chang. The seventeenth century was a flourishing period for landscape with orthodox masters such as Wang Shih-min, Wang Chien, Wang Hui, Wang Yuan-ch'i, Wu Li and en Shou Ping, and individualists such as Shih-ch'i and Shih-t'ao representing sub currents within framework of the "southern school'' approach. Along with the enduring institution of the Chinese educated elite, their philosophy of art developed without a break for a thousand years.
The northern school patriarch was Li Ssu-hsun (8th century). He and Ms son were renowned for their skill in a richly colored landscape style, using blue, green and gold pigments. Their style achieved its strength through a firm and precise technique ; brush
lines were accentuated and coloring was thick. This school was further divided into those who tended towards a fine and dense style, and those who tended towards a sparser. lighter quality. The former included Wang Shen and Chao Ling-jang (11th century) , Chao Po chu and Liu Sung-nien, Wang Chen-p'eng (14th century) and Chiu Ying (16th century) , ne latter included Li Tang (12th century) , Ma Yuan and Hsia Kuei (13th century) , Liu K|ll-tao, Tai Chin (15th century) , Chou Chen and Tang Yin (late 15th-early 16th centuries).
Birds and Flowers
In the Tang dynasty at least one painter, Tiao Kuang-yin. was already known as a specialist in birds and flowers. However, the first two important names in bird and flower painting painting, Huang Chuan and Hsu Hsi, occur in the 10th century. Huang Chuan a subject of the latter Shu dynasty, inherited the traditions of the Tang dynasty. His paintings of flowers and birds were in an accordingly archaic style, with strict conventions and conservative attention to careful realism. Hsu Hsi. who lived under the Southern Tang dynasty created the "boneless" mo-ku style in which forms are built up with pale washes and outlines are not used. His inspirations were unrestrained and the school he initiated was considered much the more creative. Mi Fu, the leading literati critic of the 11th century remarked that ten paintings by Huang Chuan were not worth one by Hsu Hsi. Five
hundred years later, Tung Ch'i-ch'ang wrote : ''Huang Chuan of Szechwan painted marvelous pictures of a reputation unsurpassed in his own time. Hsu Hsi lived slightly later, in the Kiangnan region. His flower paintings in ink alone were as alive with spirit
as leaping water." Later bird and flower painters generally belonged to either the Huang or the Hsu tradition. Sung dynasty painters such as Tsui Po. Chao Chang. Lin Chun, Lu Tsung-kuei and Chien Hsuan, Yuan dynasty painters such as Wang Yuan and Chen Lin, Ming dynasty painters such as Lu Chi, Lin Liang, Lu Chih, ChenShun, Chou Chih Mien and Chen Hung-shou, and Ching dynasty painters such as Yun Shoup'ing and Wang Wu, all developed styles of great beauty.
Stones and Bamboo
Stones and bamboo originally appeared as background objects in other types of paintings but gradually evolved into a separate genre. The 10th century Southern Tang ruler Li Hou-chu developed a trembling brush technique in calligraphy that was also particularly
suitable for painting bamboo and rocks. Tang Hsi-ya, an artist of the same time, adapted it for that purpose. In the following Sung dynasty, the painting of bamboo became more and more popular and many famous scholars such as Wen T'ung and Su Shih were also well known for their paintings of bamboo. The tradition underwent tremendous development during the 14th century and later times. Artists such as Chao Meng Fu and his wife Kuan Tao-sheng, Li Kan, K'o Chiu-ssu, Wu Chen. Ni Tsan and Ku An, closely followed by early Ming artists such as Wang Fu, Hsia Chang and Hsia Ping, were all masters who contributed towards an outstanding epoch in the painting of bamboo and rocks.