Chinese characters evolved from pictures and signs, and the Chinese art of calligraphy developed naturally from its unique writing system. Through the ages, great calligraphers developed representative calligraphic styles of their times. The love of calligraphy is deeply ingrained in Chinese scholars, and has been handed down to the present day.
The roots of Chinese painting can be traced back to paintings on Neolithic pottery six or seven thousand years ago. Since similar tools and lines were used for the earliest painting and writing, painting is said to have the same origin as calligraphy. Thus, Chinese paintings usually integrate poetry or calligraphy with themes that include figures, landscapes, flowers, birds and other animals. Traditional Chinese painting remains a highly valued genre, often on exhibit in China as well as other countries. The contemporary art world in China is also very active. Some Chinese artists have become adept at Western-style painting, both oil and watercolor. Many Chinese painters have created works that combine traditional Chinese painting techniques with those of the West, enhancing both forms. The China Art Gallery and other art galleries hold individual or joint art exhibitions year in year out. Art expositions are held each year in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Papercuts, kites, jade and other stone carvings, cloisonné, wooden toys — these arts with ancient roots in China are still widely practiced, especially among ethnic groups. Noted for their exquisite workmanship, some Chinese crafts use simple materials like scissors and paper in the case of papercuts while others use materials that are elegant and expensive, as in jade carvings. China's cloisonné — inlaid enamel — is popular both at home and abroad in products that include bottles, bowls, and cups. The blue glaze produced during the Jingtai reign period (1450-1456) of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Daizong is considered the best.
China has more than 300 forms of traditional opera, of which Peking Opera is the most popular. Peking Opera evolved from Kunqu Opera, an even more ancient art of drama listed by UNESCO in 2001 among the first group of works representing humankind through oral history. Other popular local operas include Yueju (Shaoxing Opera from Zhejiang), Huangmeixi (from Anhui), Chuanju (Sichuan Opera), Yuju (Henan Opera), and Yueju (Guangdong Opera). Peking Opera developed in early 19th-century Beijing and presents singing, music, chanting, dancing and martial arts all in one stage performance. The dramatic masks and costumes of Peking Opera are world-renowned. Famous Peking Opera actors and actresses over the years included Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Ma Lianliang, Zhou Xinfang and Du Jinfang. Since the 1990s, the emergence of highly talented young performers has helped demonstrate the continued importance of Peking Opera in Chinese culture. In recent years, the Peking Opera Theatre of China has experimented with incorporating western symphonic music in its productions.
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Master Art Gallery