Qing Art

[ The Qing Dynasty 1644 - 1911 ]

Manchu warriors poured through the Great Wall in the 17th century, establishing the last dynasty of
traditional China, the Qing ("Pure") Dynasty which ruled, at least theoretically, until 1911.
At first following a policy of strict separation from the Han Chinese majority,
eventually Manchu rulers "softened their early policy of intimidation
with a concerted effort at accommodation...and adopting much of
the Ming bureaucratic structure..." and Confucian ideals of government (Hearn 121).
The dynasty's greatest ruler, the Kangxi Emperor, was himself well-versed in the
Confucian classics and actively sponsored the arts.
At the same time, China experienced cultural influences from the outside world.
One of the new techniques in pottery, based on European prototypes,
was the creation of "a new enamel ware...known as famille rose..." (Hearn 123).

The porcelain flask is a fine example of the "bird and flower overglaze famille rose enamel...." Famille rose describes a group of porcelains...all of which are decorated with a particular palette of overglaze enamels which includes a rose pink..." (Atlas 134).

(Atlas 135)

The beautiful Qing plate, presumably crafted by a court painter in the 18th century, illustrates precision in the depiction of landscape in the now familiar blue and white tradition.

(Hearn 125)

The enamel vase suggests inspiration from the popular album leaf "Landscapes and Flowers" by Yun Shou-p'ing in the late 17th century. Art critics also suggest a possible western influence in the "delicately shaded peonies." (Hearn, 127) Perhaps the vase represents a "new merging of Chinese and Western techniques and sensibilities" (Hearn 127). Some critics affirm that Qing ceramics were supreme throughout the world during the heyday of creativity that marked imperial patronage in the early decades of the Qing Dynasty. "There was enormous demand for this magnificently colored, imaginative ware in Europe and America duringthe eighteenth and nineteenth centuries" (Batterberry 80).
Landscapes continued to be a popular form of artistic expression, but many of the Qing masterpieces are too large to reproduce here. Chan Buddhist artist, Tao-chi, sought to harmonize and unify heart and mind in his subjects. His "Wilderness Colors: Eggplants" is part of of an album of twelve leaves. "The plump eggplants and the reed that binds them are so swiftly and cleanly drawn that we feel the lot was freshly gathered in the market" (Met 106). The painting contains the drawing, calligraphy, and commentary so important to the aesthetic of the genre. He wrote enigmatically, "The perfect man has no method. But it is not that he does not have method; he has the perfect method that is no method" (Met 107).

(Met 107)

Another interesting genre could be seen in embroidery of court robes. The Twelve Symbol Dragon Robe above dates from the 18th century and represents a combination of traditional Chinese styles with those of the Manchu conquerors. The robe depicted here "combined traditional Chinese symbolism with the simplicity and mobility of the Manchu riding coat" (Met 117). In addition to the twelve dragons, the robe "is embellished with additional requisite motifs: clouds, waves, mountains, symbolizing the Universe....eight Buddhist emblems...Taoist symbols and bats" (Met 117).


For helpful links on Chinese arts in all of the eras, visit



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Batterberry, Michael. Chinese and Oriental Art. New York, et. al.: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1968.

Contemporary Atlas of China. Edited by Nathan Sivin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1988.

Hearn, Maxwell. Splendors of Imperial China. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1997.

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Asia. Ed. by Sarah McPhee, et. al. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.

Smith, Bradley and Wan-go Weng. China: A History in Art. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.