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Traditional Chinese Painting

The traditional Chinese painting, also known as guo ha (国画), translates to ‘national’ or ‘native’ painting in the Chinese language.  Traditional Chinese painting uses the same techniques that are the basis of Chinese calligraphy. Like Chinese calligraphy, guo ha uses a brush dipped in black or colored ink. Oil paints are not used in traditional Chinese painting.

There are two different styles or techniques of traditional Chinese painting. First and foremost is freehand painting.

Traditional Chinese Painting

Freehand painting, called Shui-mo (水墨) in China, loosely translate to water (shui) ink (mo). The Chinese term xie yi (寫意) means freehand style in Chinese. The other prominent style of Chinese painting is the meticulous “court style”, called Gong-bi (工筆).

Of all traditional Chinese paintings, landscape painting is considered the highest form or style. Time period from the Five Dynasties to the Northern Song period is often referred to as the Great Age of Chinese landscape painting. During this period of time, artists created paintings of spectacular towering mountains or peaceful rolling hills and rivers. The Chinese landscape paintings remain very popular to this day.

Artists have begun to incorporate oil paints into contemporary Chinese paintings. While this western style of painting is being practiced by some avante garde Chinese painters, the traditional Chinese painting style continues to be the most popular style with Chinese artists and western art collectors.

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