Painting with Wings: The Chinese Kite

Written by Juliette Qi

 

History of the First Kites in China

 

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Traditional  Kite in China 

The first kites date from the Warring States Period (ECB 475-221, also called the Eastern Zhou Dynasty). During this period, they were made of wood and were called Mu Yuan木鸢 (wooden kite). This kite prototype, or “wooden bird”, has its origin in the ancient text of Mozi (BCE 551-479), who was a philosopher a century after Confucius.

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Flying A Kite

In fact, it was not until the Tang Dynasty (CE 618-907) that light kites made of silk and then paper (bamboo was a common material used for the support) made their appearance. It was at this time that kites went beyond their original military function and were instead used for recreation. Immediately, the artisans began decorating their creations in a more artistic way. During the Ming (CE 1368-1644) and Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasties, the production and flying of kites became an art form. The kite also became an elaborate object with a colorful decoration in the shape of a bird, flowers or flower buds and of course included elements of Chinese calligraphy. The Chinese kite, like the Chinese lantern and parasol, has become a means of artistic expression, usually with the predominance of literary themes.

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Traditional Design “Swallow”

 

Weifang and the Kite Festival

The Chinese city Weifang, located in the Shandong Peninsula, has a special relationship with the kite. Weifang City is home to the International Kite Association and hosts the Weifang International Kite Festival every year from April 20th to 25th. Many interesting kites are presented on this occasion every year, which attract thousands of people from all over the world to the city to compete or to watch the performance of the majestic colorful kites. The China Highlights Festival Tour offers its guests a unique opportunity to enjoy this annual event with locals and kite lovers from around the world. The highlight of the festival is at the annual “Kite King” event. Obviously, the city of Weifang has a museum dedicated to the history of this activity.

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Dragon Kite of Weifang

It was in Weifang in 1282 that Marco Polo is supposed to have witnessed the flying of a kite. According to Marco Polo’s diary, there was a tradition in the nearby city Weihai at this time for measuring wind direction and force with a kite to determine whether an imminent trip was a good idea. This was done by attaching a large kite to the stern of a sailboat that was freely anchored, so that the boat would move in the direction of the wind. Then, the kite was removed from the sailboat and was allowed to fly away. If the kite flew high and straight, it was a sign that the trip will be good and if not, it would mean that the trip would not be easy.

When he returned to Italy, Marco Polo brought a Chinese kite with him. Soon, thanks to the Silk Road, the Chinese kite became famous in Europe and then continued its journey from Europe to the New World. In the Pavilion dedicated to the ‘Conquest of the Sky’ at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, a plaque was erected on which is inscribed the following homage to the Chinese kite: “the earliest aircraft are the kites and missiles of China”.

 

 

 

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“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

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New Year’s Painting: A Decorative Art

Written by Juliette Qi

 

Chinese Printed Painting, or Banhua版画 in Chinese, first represents the engraving process that then gave birth to the art of printing onto wooden boards. However, nowadays, when we speak of Chinese Printed Painting, we imply rather the paintings made mainly on the occasion of the Chinese New Year as one of the festive decorative arts. This kind of painting is therefore called New Year’s Painting or Nianhua年画 by the Chinese people.

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Traditional Style in the 17th Century, Taohuawu

 

What is Chinese Printed Painting ?

In China, printing involves a process of embossing on wood to create a painting or leave an inked design. In effect , a Chinese artist first creates a model in relief on a wooden board. Then, he applies ink to the raised parts and presses the engraving on special paper. After pressing, the ink leaves a mark on the paper to form a drawing. This is the basic principle that then gave rise to other woodcutting and printing techniques.

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The Gods of the Door

 

Use for the Chinese New Year

The Chinese people discovered this printing and stamping technique around the 6th century. Over the centuries, they have gradually used the prints during traditional festivities and especially the Chinese New Year. This complex process, which only an artist can do, was much appreciated by emperors who were very fond of art, especially during the Song Dynasty. The techniques have therefore improved over the centuries to create more refined paintings.

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Painting of Character”Fu”(Felicity), Taohuawu

More than just an art object, New Year’s Paintings have a real symbolic value in the eyes of the Chinese. In their tradition, these printed paintings can attract happiness, chase evil spirits and protect against evil for the coming year. The New Year’s print reflects the customs, mood and aesthetic taste of the population, making it a valuable asset of cultural heritage worth high appreciation.

 

Style for Each City

In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, painters devoted themselves to the production of New Year’s Painting, allowing it to reach its maturity. Nowadays this Chinese folk art is primarily made in three small villages of China and each of them offers rich and varied patterns.

 

 

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Pattern of the Yangliuqing School

The Yangjiabu School, near Weifang, uses colored woodcuts with exaggerated shapes that fit the beliefs of Chinese peasants. These very showy prints are the most popular in China and the most widespread. The schools of Yangliuqing near Tianjin and Taohuawu near Suzhou offer more refined and harmonious works.

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Pattern of the Taohuawu School

 

Woodcut Paintings

New Year’s Painting is a class of woodcut painting, which is a traditional folk engraved painting that has been popular in China since the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-9). It is a fantastic innovation of Han art and culture.

Therefore, it has been better protected and has attracted more and more attention from the contemporary Chinese people. It is also the most special technique invented after the appearance of printing with engraved plates, preceding the invention of the modern printing press. It has adapted to the mental demands, folk belief, aesthetic design, and needs of the daily life of the Han people. This kind of painting developed and improved over time, forming a unique style that is natural but elegant and sober but alive. Born from the daily life of the Han people and used for holiday decoration, this art has always played the role of enriching the life of the Han and reflecting the good wishes of the people.

 

 

 

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Literati Painting

Written by Juliette Qi

 

The literati painting or wenrenhua (文人画) is a traditional style of painting in China, which despite taking its definitive form from the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1280 -1368), found its classical form with the artist-scholar Dong Qichang (1555-1636), under the name of the Southern School (南宗画). The literati painting was then adopted in Japan under the name of Bunjin-ga.

 

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Dong Qichang, Wanluan Thatch Lodge

 

The first characteristic of Chinese literati painting文人画 (wenrenhua), for the Western observer, is that it is a kind of (often monochrome) ink wash painting rather than an oil painting. But it makes use of all the subtle differences of the water-diluted ink to obtain infinite nuances. Applied to paper or silk, this painting technique does not use the Western perspective method: the effects of distance and foreground are achieved by the arrangement of proportions.

 

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Wang e, Room overlooking the River

 

When he develops his work in his silent study, realizing long-lasting feelings, or when he indulges in improvisation in front of amateurs, the Chinese scholar-painter always cherishes the long tradition and never disdains to work “in the manner of “the former masters. Generally he neglects portraiture and rejects realism, giving man only his rightful place in nature. Landscape painting山水and the painting of flowers and birds花鸟 are, along with bamboo, his favorite and privileged subjects.

 

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Bada Shanren, Lotus and bird
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Shitao, Le bateau

 

Under the Qing, literary painting continued to show remarkable vitality and originality, and many of the most famous artists no longer worked under any master: this was the case of the “crazy monks”, independent painters among which the most famous were Bada Shanren (1626-1705) and Shitao (1630-1707).

 

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The “Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou”

 

Facing the proliferation of talented artists in the Ming and Qing, Chinese historians have tried to divide them into schools like “The Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou” and “Four Wang”. In the nineteenth century, the creative momentum slowed down and the decline was is constant; many Chinese painters began turning to Western painting and the practice of oil painting. With the end of the empire, the model of scholar-painter also came to its end. Yet, a new type of artist-intellectual, innovative technically and artistically, had emerged from the earliest days of modern Chinese art.

 

 

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Art Collector with a Chinese Heart

Ellsworth, the prestigious late art dealer and collector of Asian art, devoted his life to loving, collecting and dealing Asian art. However, these art treasures will be dispersed into collectors across the world in the wake of his death in August at age 85, except those donated to museums like the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ellsworth on Mount Huangshan in Anhui province during his trip to China in 1995.
 Chinese art

A major part of Ellsworth’s legacy is Chinese art, which he started collecting during childhood although he didn’t know a Chinese word.

A room at Robert H.Ellsworth’s apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York.
 Chinese art

He was the first to bring Ming Dynasty furniture to the West in the 1950s. He made himself an expert on it and wrote a book, Chinese Furniture: Hardwood Examples of the Ming and early Ch’ing Dynasties, in the 1970s, even earlier than Chinese scholars’ books on the subject.

Because of his obsession with Chinese art and his unique taste, in the 1960s, Ellsworth began collecting Chinese paintings of the 19th and early 20th centuries, a period that has been neglected by art historians.

Ellsworth’s collecting of Chinese art reached a climax when China and the US established diplomatic ties in the 1970s.

In addition to his collection, Ellsworth also set up the Chinese Heritage Art Foundation in Hong Kong in the 1990s, dedicated to repairing the ancient houses of the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties in Huangshan in Anhui province. At that time, most Chinese didn’t realize the value of the structures in Huangshan’s ancient villages.

 Chinese art
Two pieces of porcelain in his collection.
 Chinese art

For years, Ellsworth had bought and sold countless antique objects. But the ones he kept at his houses were those he wanted to live with. “If you don’t want to stay with your collections day and night, then don’t buy them,” he advised prospective collectors.

In the 20th century, many treasured Chinese antiques and artworks were lost during war times. Ellsworth was one of the first Western collectors to seek them out and became an expert and scholar on Chinese art.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

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So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


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The Sacred Art of Sand Mandalas ——Construction and Destruction

A mandala is a symbolic picture of the universe, used in Tibetan Buddhism and other faiths. The mandala’s purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones and to assist with healing. Sand mandalas are particularly used in Tibetan Buddhism. According to Buddhist scripture, mandalas constructed from sand transmit positive energies to the environment and to the people who view them. They are believed to effect purification and healing. There are many different designs of mandala, each with different lessons to teach.

The mandala represents an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation. Each object in the palace has significance, representing an aspect of wisdom or reminding the meditator of a guiding principle. The Tibetan mandala contains deities, with the principal deity in the centre of the pattern. The deities who reside in the palace embody philosophical views and serve as role models.

It usually takes Tibetan Monks several days to design and place tiny grains of sand to create a beautiful work of temporary art, then it will be destroyed immediately once it is finished.

1. Opening Ceremony

 
 Chinese Culture

The mandala sand painting process begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. The monks chant and dance in resplendent dress. This event is visually and acoustically striking.

2. Drawing of the Lines

 
 Chinese Culture

After the Opening Ceremony the monks start drawing the line design for the mandala. The design of the mandala is marked with chalk on a wooden platform. This is very meticulous work that takes about several hours to complete.

3. Mandala Construction

 
 Chinese Culture
 
 Chinese Culture

Then the monks use metal funnels called chak-pur to place millions of grains of dyed sand to make the elaborate patterns. The vibrations of the serrated chak-pur being grated with a metal rod cause the sand to flow like liquid. The mandala is constructed from the centre outwards.

4. Mandala Completion

 
 Chinese Culture

This mandala took several days to complete. The monks conclude their creation of the mandala with its consecration. In some cities, several thousand guests have attended the closing ceremony.

5. Dismantling the Mandala

 
 Chinese Culture

Once the mandala is complete, it is ritually destroyed. During the Closing Ceremony, the monks dismantle the mandala, sweeping up the colored sands to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists. Half of the sand may be distributed to the audience in small bags as blessings for personal health and healing.

6. Dispersal of the sand

 
 Chinese Culture

The monks, along with spectators, travel to a body of water. The sand is then ceremonially poured into the water in order to spread the healing energies of the mandala throughout the world. It is seen as a gift to the mother earth to re-energise the environment and universe.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

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Traditional Chinese Painting Techniques

According to painting skills, traditional Chinese painting (Guohua) can be divided into three main styles: gongbi style, xieyi style and combination of these two styles.

gongbi painting
 Chinese Painting

Gongbi,meticulous, usually referred to as “court-style” painting. It features on meticulous drawing and emphasizes the beauty of lines. It needs close attention to detail and fine brushwork.

xieyi painting
 Chinese Painting

Xieyi, freehand, loosely termed watercolour or brushwork. So Chinese people also use Chinese character “water ” and ” ink ” together to name this painting skill as the core of Xieyi. When a painter use xieyi technique, he always try to describe exaggerated forms to express his feelings. Different from gongbi, xieyi generalizes shapes and displays rich brushwork and ink techniques.

combination of gongbi and xieyi
 Chinese Painting

Combination of gongbi and xieyi, literally, both of two main techniques gongbi and xieyi are used in one painting. This kind of painting skill is used very often in flower-bird paintings and figure paintings.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


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We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

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Birds in four seasons – The collection of Chinese flower-and-bird paintings

Flowers and birds were favorite subjects of paintings in ancient China, offering a kind of special aesthetic interest. Flower-and-bird painting originated from the Tang Dynasty (618-907). This art form slowly advanced from initially serving as an ornamental pattern for daily utensils, then later serving as symbolic, metaphoric and allegorical elements in the background of figure painting. Finally, flowers and birds are seen in independent themes.

Birds and Plum artist: Pu Zuo (1918-2001)
 Chinese Painting

Flower-and-bird painting further developed during the Five Dynasties period (907-960), and reached maturity during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The Five Dynasty Period was a crucial era of shaping this style as one of the three major trends in Chinese traditional painting, together with Landscape Painting and Figure Painting.

Birds and Camellia artist: Lu Yifei (1908-1997)
 Chinese Painting

Flower-and-bird painting is peculiar to China. Flowers and birds can be associated with almost all thoughts and feelings of a human being. They can symbolize feminine beauty, virtue, political authority, omens, and lucky niceness. Once established, this tradition became popular in every dynasty. Therefore, their symbolic meaning grew increasingly rich and specific.

Four Gentlemen and Three Friends of Winter are the representatives of flower-and-bird painting. Plum blossom, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum were known as the Four Gentlemen. Their common features are nobleness, modesty, and integrity. And as the Three Friends of Winter, pine, bamboo, and plum blossom are often associated with a man of great virtue. For their own natural qualities, these five plants are given the corresponding symbolic meanings and appear in flower-and-bird paintings frequently.

Bird and Camellia artist: Sun Yunsheng (1918-2000)
 Chinese Painting
Bird and Magnolia Flower artist: Qi Baishi (1864-1957)
 Chinese Painting

The tradition of flower-and-bird painting evolved into two main trends, namely the Gong Bi tradition where artists focused on small details, careful application of color and meticulous technique, giving their art a realistic and ornamental feeling, while the other trend of Xie Yi is more expressionistic and impulsive.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

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Early bloomers in Chinese paintings

Chinese painters love nothing more than spring flowers when they depict spring scenes. Those early bloomers bring the first burst of color onto the drawing boards of a new year. Here is a list of spring flowers in Chinese paintings. You may find some fabulous scenes of spring, and you can just enjoy the pleasant season without going outdoors.

Canola plants

A painting of canola flowers by Shen Xinggong.
 Chinese Painting

Canola plants not only provide us with the world’s major source of vegetable oil, but also stunning spring scenes, when fields of canola flowers transfer the landscape into a huge golden blanket.

Peach blossoms

A painting of peach blossoms by Zhou Chunya.
 Chinese Painting

Peach blossoms are highly appreciated in Chinese culture. It is believed that the peach possesses more vitality than any other tree because its blossoms appear before leaves sprout.

Pear blossoms

A painting of pear blossoms by Yu Jigao.
 Chinese Painting

Beautiful things are often fleeting. Pear blossoms always seem to bloom in profusion overnight and are soon washed away by the rain before people realize they are there.

Cherry blossoms

A painting of cherry blossoms by Fang Chuxiong.
 Chinese Painting

Although the cherry blossom is part of the Japanese culture, the delicate pink flowers are enjoyed in most cities around the world.

Peony

A painting of peony by Yu Feian.
 Chinese Painting

Peony is the traditional flower symbol of China, and was formerly grown only for the Chinese emperor. The massive blooms are often associated with fortune, prosperity, and nobility.

Crabapple blossoms

A painting of crabapple blossoms by Zhang Shizeng.
 Chinese Painting

The famous traditional Chinese medicine doctor of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), Sun Simiao, considered the blossom as an herbal medicine to resist some heart diseases.

Magnolias

A painting of magnolias by Huang Yongyu.
 Chinese Painting

Long-lived magnolia trees were loved by ancient Chinese royal families, and often planted in the temple.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

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Twelve Beauties (2)

A Beauty at Leisure: Distant Thoughts among Antiquities
 Chinese Painting

Sitting on the mottled bamboo chair, this lady glances down, absorbed by her private thoughts. She is surrounded by an array of treasures displayed on shelves including fine ceramics. For example, behind her is a Ru ware style brush washer, and a jade table screen; to her left (our right) is a red-glazed monks-cap ewer, and a bronze zun wine beaker. All identifiable as objects from the Kangxi and Yongzheng periods, these objects present the quintessential opulent style of the imperial household. These treasures not only add credibility to the authenticity of the scene, they also are used to convey the woman’s interest in antiquities.

A Beauty at Leisure: Watching Magpies from a Couch
 Chinese Painting

Seated indoors on a couch and playing with a jade interlink, this lady is lost in thought while watching the pair of magpies that are calling outside. The artist means to show the woman’s happiness at the end of winter and the beginning of spring, but he also, perhaps inadvertently, conveys a sense of stifling solitude and utter loneliness that was the lot of many women in the palace. The screen behind her is inscribed with hundreds of different forms of the character for longevity. Although the message is to extend life hundreds of years, one feels she would willing trade the life of an immortal for the devoted pairing of Mandarin ducks.

A Beauty at Leisure: Sitting Beside a Chrysanthemum
 Chinese Painting

Sitting next to a table in a study, this woman holds a fine enamel watch. On the table stands a vase with chrysanthemums, which indicates that the time is the eighth lunar month (early autumn). Elegant and lofty, the chrysanthemum is much appreciated in the autumn for its ability to resist the cold. Endowed with a hearty nature, it was associated with firm resolution and longevity, and was also appreciated for its simple beauty and refinement. It became the favored ornament to adorn both hair and rooms in the house. Behind her is hanging a scroll with a poem by the great Ming dynasty calligrapher Dong Qichang (1555-1636). The European astrolabe on the small table in the next room and the enamel watch that the woman holds in her hand are indications that Western objects were already becoming fashionable in the palace.

A Beauty at Leisure: Watching Cats while Handling Beads
 Chinese Painting

Sitting upright, slightly leaning on the table, and leisurely handling the prayer beads, this lady is watching two cats play on a windowsill. The painter has us view the interior of the room from outside the round window, so the focal interest in this painting is relatively small, but because the painter used western one-point perspective, the foreground, middle ground, and background are laid out systematically, which has the result of significantly expanding the sense of space and also extending the charm of the scene. The chime clock next to the lattice window is marking the passage of time as the cats play on the threshold of inner and outer space. In an ambiance of suspended activity, the days thus pass quietly.

A Beauty at Leisure: Wearing a fur-lined coat, Looking in a Mirror
 Chinese Painting

Wearing a fur-lined surcoat, and with jade adorning her wrist, the lady in this painting holds a bronze mirror in one hand, while warming the other by gently resting it on a brazier. In the background, there is a hanging scroll inscribed by Hermit Pochen. Pochen (literally “defeating the dust of the world”) was the sobriquet that the Yongzheng emperor had adopted when he was still a prince. It implies that he aimed to be pure of heart and had few desires.

A Beauty at Leisure: Watching Snow Beside a Brazier
 Chinese Painting

Gently holding back a curtain, a lady sits on a bed beside the window and admires the snowy scene and blossoming plum tree. Covered with frost and snow, the jade-green bamboo looks strong and fresh despite the cold. Celebrated in poetry for its life force (it blossoms in late winter before the snow has melted), the white winter sweet is favored not only for its beauty but also because the five petals of its blossom are associated with five blessings including happiness, good fortune, health, auspiciousness, and longevity.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Twelve Beauties(1)

When Yongzheng was still a prince, he commissioned this beautiful set of paintings for the purpose of decorating a screen in the Deep Willows Reading Hall, a study within his private quarters at the Summer Palace. An imperial garden to the northwest of Beijing, the Summer Palace was presented to the young prince in 1709 by his father the Kangxi emperor (r. 1662-1722).

Painted in realistic style with neat outlines and generous color, the set follows the custom of depicting ladies of the court as women of elegance and natural grace. The artist portrayed these imagined beauties at leisure activities such as sampling tea, watching butterflies, and reading, as well as showing them in quiet reflection. He also showcased the most popular costumes and hairstyles of the Qing court women. For research on costume and accessories of Qing dynasty court women, these paintings are visual and historical documents of unparalleled authenticity. They reveal perceptions about the women of the court during the reigns of Kangxi and Yongzheng, whilst also documenting their refined demeanor and fine costumes.

A Beauty at Leisure: Lady Standing and Holding a Ruyi Scepter
 Chinese Painting

The lady in this picture is depicted admiring the flowers in the courtyard while holding a Ruyi scepter. The auspicious Ruyi (“as you wish”) scepter was a popular gift in the Qing dynasty. In the garden, the purple, pink, white, and red peonies are most prominent. For its opulence, grace, and fragrance, the peony is called the Prince of Flowers and is a symbol of an auspicious, thriving and prosperous future, while the Ruyi scepter carved from bamboo in the form of Lingzhi mushroom signifies wish fulfillment. Together they combine to express “Wished for Prosperity and Position.”

A Beauty at Leisure: Murmuring to herself while reading
 Chinese Painting

Holding a book with a page half revealed, the woman in this painting seems to be reciting to herself. On the wall behind her is a small colored landscape painting. The decorative leaf below the painting is inscribed in cursive script with a poem by the distinguished Northern Song calligrapher, poet, and connoisseur Mi Fu (1051-1107).

A Beauty at Leisure: Leaning on a Gate Gazing at Bamboo
 Chinese Painting

This courtyard is full of flowers, grasses, bamboo, decorative rocks, and an array of miniature landscapes in containers (pen jing) that include orchids and Chinese rose. The lady leaning on the gate wistfully gazes, perhaps with romantic yearnings, at the spring colors filling the garden.

A Beauty at Leisure: Watching Butterflies in Summer
 Chinese Painting

The lady stands leaning on a table. Beyond the railing, bright butterflies hover by decorative garden rocks and day lilies. Although the painting describes a woman doing little more than indulging in summer leisure, because of the allegorical nature of the day lily and its implication of giving birth to a son, this scene can be understood as having the auspicious message that the woman depicted is pregnant with a boy. She holds a small calabash. Since the calabash gourd belongs to a group of plants that communicates flourishing growth, it is often used to suggest the idea of many sons. With the day lilies in bloom beside the railing and the calabash in her hand, the painting is not only visually attractive, but also manages to have deeper meanings.

A Beauty at Leisure: Doing Needlework by Candlelight
 Chinese Painting

By candlelight, this lady is occupied with her needlework. Typically needlework encompassed weaving, embroidering, and sewing. In the past, needlework was one of the most important standards to judge the character of a woman. Any woman who was good at needlework would be highly regarded. The lady in this picture picks the needle elegantly and seems lost in thought as she works. The red bat flying through the bamboo in the background is a symbol of good luck.

A Beauty at Leisure: Drinking Tea Under a Parasol Tree
 Chinese Painting

With a large gauze fan in her hand, this lady is sampling tea beneath the branches of a parasol tree (wu tong shu). Originally drinking tea was a simple daily ritual. It became associated with the intellectual world when gentlemen combined sipping tea with the discussion of world affairs and ideas, thereby elevating its status. Inside the moon gate, the black-lacquer bookshelf with gold décor is filled with books. The fascicles not only add an atmosphere of Confucian learning, they also combine with the elegant porcelain cup in the woman’s hand to indicate that she is culturally accomplished.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!