IntroductionThe 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 DynastyMasters 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).
Ritual Wine VesselPlace of Origin: China, Henan province
Date: approx. 1300-1050 BCE
Historical Period: Shang dynasty (approx. 1600-1050 BCE)
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 DynastyContinued ritual art, and started use of "brilliant artifacts" (mingqi) composed of miniature objects and replicas of living things used in burials.
Miniature Bronze TigerOne 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)
Dimensions: H. 25.3 cm. x W. 15.9 cm. x D. 75.2 cm. Zhou Dynasty...an introduction
Period: 221 BCE to 206 BCE
Qin DynastyFirst calligraphy carved into stone, which may have been the oldest steles. Many large architectural projects such as the Great Wall
Construction of The Great Wall BeginsWan 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
Terracotta ArmyEmperor 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 DynastyThis 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.
Laquer Ear CupLacquer 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 PeriodComposed 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.
Wang Xizhi 王羲之Famous calligrapher and poet who shifted the style of calligraphy. Wang Xishi's Calligraphy
Period: 581 to 618
Sui DynastyA short-lived dynasty where the role of Buddhism became dominant in the country, which also spilled into the art and architecture.
Grand Canal SystemThe Grand Canal system, running from Beijing to Hangzhou, was built during this time period. Grand Canal
Period: 618 to 906
Tang DynastyThis 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.
Sancai-Glazed AmphoraPeriod: Tang dynasty (618–907)
Date: late 7th century
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 PeriodThis 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.
Mount Kuanglu by Jing HaoHanging scroll, ink on silk
185.8 cm x 106.8 cm
National Palace Museum, Taipei Mount Kuanglu
Period: 960 to 1279
Song DynastyThis 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.
Song BowlMEDIUM: 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 DynastyCalligraphy 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.
Wine JarDate: late 13th–early 14th century
Medium: Stoneware painted in brown on a white ground.
Dimensions: H. 31 cm. Wine Jar