Significant Moments in Chinese Art, 1600 BCE to 1368 CE

  • 1600 BCE


    The purpose of this timeline is to show the development, beauty, and variety of art in China from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1050 BCE) to the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 CE). Main Sources
    Art in Context
    New World Encyclopedia
    Princeton University Art Museum
    Sullivan, Michael. Arts of China. University of California Press, 2018.
  • Period: 1600 BCE to 1050 BCE

    Shang Dynasty

    Masters of bronze casting, using the piece-mold casting method (as opposed to lost wax casting). Large focus on functional as well as ritual/ceremonial art (liqi).
  • 1300 BCE

    Ritual Wine Vessel

    Ritual Wine Vessel
    Place of Origin: China, Henan province
    Date: approx. 1300-1050 BCE
    Historical Period: Shang dynasty (approx. 1600-1050 BCE)
    Materials: Bronze
    Dimensions: H. 75.3 cm x W. 38.1 cm x D. 31.8 cm Asian Art Museum
  • Period: 1046 BCE to 256 BCE

    Zhou Dynasty

    Continued ritual art, and started use of "brilliant artifacts" (mingqi) composed of miniature objects and replicas of living things used in burials.
  • 950 BCE

    Miniature Bronze Tiger

    Miniature Bronze Tiger
    One of a pair. May have been used as a base for a bell stand. Place of Origin: China, Shaanxi province
    Date: approx. 950-850 BCE
    Historical Period: Zhou dynasty (c. 1046-256 BCE)
    Materials: Bronze
    Dimensions: H. 25.3 cm. x W. 15.9 cm. x D. 75.2 cm. Zhou introduction
  • Period: 221 BCE to 206 BCE

    Qin Dynasty

    First calligraphy carved into stone, which may have been the oldest steles. Many large architectural projects such as the Great Wall
  • 220 BCE

    Construction of The Great Wall Begins

    Construction of The Great Wall Begins
    Wan Li Chang Cheng or the 10,000 Li Long Wall, what we know today as The Great Wall, was mainly built by soldiers and convicts. As many as 400,000 people are said to have died while building it. The Great Wall
  • 210 BCE

    Terracotta Army

    Terracotta Army
    Emperor Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 (aka Shi Huangdi) is buried with a Terracotta Army containing more than 7000 warriors in various poses, 600 horses, and 100 chariots. Terracotta Army
  • Period: 206 BCE to 220

    Han Dynasty

    This was a period of significant development in art which included the invention of paper, distinct from papyrus, lacquer work, and more diverse textiles such as silk weaving. They also set up workshops to create art on a larger scale. Exposure to new materials and ideas through trade routes also meant they began to work with new metals, different forms of ceramics, and glass.
  • 4

    Laquer Ear Cup

    Laquer Ear Cup
    Lacquer cup, found near Pyongyang, North Korea, 4 CE "The bowl is a shallow oval about 17 centimetres (7 inches) long, roughly the size and shape of a large mango." Contains 67 Chinese characters detailing all of the people involved in manufacturing it. Han Lacquer Cup
  • Period: 220 to 564

    Six Dynasties Period

    Composed of the Three Kingdoms (220-265), Jin Dynasty (265-420), Period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589). Calligraphy became an art form rather than just a way of communicating in writing. Painting expanded and developed as well. Buddhism also began to impact art more.
  • 353

    Wang Xizhi 王羲之

    Wang Xizhi 王羲之
    Famous calligrapher and poet who shifted the style of calligraphy. Wang Xishi's Calligraphy
  • Period: 581 to 618

    Sui Dynasty

    A short-lived dynasty where the role of Buddhism became dominant in the country, which also spilled into the art and architecture.
  • 600

    Grand Canal System

    Grand Canal System
    The Grand Canal system, running from Beijing to Hangzhou, was built during this time period. Grand Canal
  • Period: 618 to 906

    Tang Dynasty

    This was a very significant period for the development of Chinese art of many types. Both small and large format painting increased, there were continued changes in calligraphy styles, and ceramics began to include more complicated shapes and decoration styles. Sancai or 3-colors glaze combined lead glaze of three different colors.
  • 675

    Sancai-Glazed Amphora

    Sancai-Glazed Amphora
    Period: Tang dynasty (618–907)
    Date: late 7th century
    Culture: China
    Medium: Earthenware with three-color (sancai) glaze
    Dimensions: H. 28.3 cm
    Classification: Ceramics Sancai-Glazed Amphora
  • Period: 907 to 960

    Five Dynasties/Ten Kingdoms Period

    This period had a lot of shifts in control throughout China. These included five dynasties in the north and ten kingdoms in the south. Printing of books became important as did the expansion of landscape, animal, and flower painting.
  • 960

    Mount Kuanglu by Jing Hao

    Mount Kuanglu by Jing Hao
    Hanging scroll, ink on silk
    185.8 cm x 106.8 cm
    National Palace Museum, Taipei Mount Kuanglu
  • Period: 960 to 1279

    Song Dynasty

    This period saw major changes in painting, calligraphy, and ceramics. Painting focused much less on humans and much more on the glory of nature with special focus on spacing and depth. Calligraphy saw a range of different stroke styles. Technological improvements such as the development of kilns with space for more items, resulted in finer ceramics and more varied and predictable options for glazing.
  • 1150

    Song Bowl

    Song Bowl
    MEDIUM: Stoneware with iron-pigmented glaze
    STYLE: Jian ware
    DIMENSIONS: H x W: 8.8 x 19.2 cm
    GEOGRAPHY: China, Fujian province Song bowl
  • Period: 1279 to 1368

    Yuan Dynasty

    Calligraphy became a frequent part of paintings during this time period, but most significant was the expansion of ceramic styles for export to other parts of East Asia. Along with this came new ideas for shapes and decorations in ceramics, metal, and stone carving.
  • 1368

    Wine Jar

    Wine Jar
    Date: late 13th–early 14th century
    Culture: Chinese
    Medium: Stoneware painted in brown on a white ground.
    Dimensions: H. 31 cm. Wine Jar