As one of the world’s oldest civilizations, it comes as no surprise that China boasts a rich history of art. Over the course of over 3,000 years, the country has crafted a vibrant culture made up of countless art forms, that, together, help paint a picture of China’s fascinating evolution. Here, we unearth some of the age-old country’s most important artistic contributions, from ancient pottery to classical poetry to contemporary installation.
These seven art forms are at the core of Chinese art history.
One of China’s oldest types of art is Neolithic pottery. Named for the period in which it was produced, this genre of art includes ceramic pieces crafted from around 10000 BCE to 2000 BCE. Though early Neolithic pottery was left unpainted, many works—particularly, pieces created by the Yanshao people, who lived along the Yellow River from 5000 BCE to 3000 BCE—were decorated by pressing cords into them, leaving distinctive patterned imprints.
Toward the end of the Neolithaic era, the Yanshao began painting their ceramics, with geometric designs and human faces among the most favored motifs.
Jade objects were another popular handicraft that emerged in Neolithic China. First mined in 6000 BCE, this “imperial gem” developed into a sought-after staple in several Chinese cultures, with important sites found in Liangzhu (an ancient region in present-day Zhejiang), the Liaoning province, and Inner Mongolia.