Tang Dynasty

A long period of decline (with accompanying chaos, civil war, etc.) marked the end of the Han Dynasty, which was succeeded by another dark age, similar to the Warring States Period at the end of Zhou. The "short-sharp" Sui Dynasty restored order, policed the Great Wall, established peace and unity over a war-torn land. The great contribution of the Sui emperors was the construction of the Grand Canal which linked southern China (Hangzhou) and northern China (Beijing.) It was, however, the Tang emperors who gave China its next long, golden age, characterized by major achievements and innovations in the arts, many of them under imperial patronage. Painting was one medium which flourished. In the painting below, Han Huang depicted a literary gathering in which one of the friends composes a poem.

(Smith and Wang 139)

Calligraphy was also a highly admired medium of artistic expression in Tang China. The example below represents a "running script" of informal writing style (Hearn 19).

(Hearn 19)

However, it is in ceramics that Han artists began to excel, particularly in their creation of fanciful, multiglazed animal figures as the camel (right) and lion (left) depicted .

(Batterberry 39)

The wonderful Tang horse above is made of "Three Color glazed pottery" excavated from the tomb of Prince Yi De near Xian. "This extremely beautiful horse is an outstanding specimen of a spectacular category which is highly esteemed.... It possesses all of the indispensable attributes of a steed from an Imperial stable: powerful muscles and well-formed legs.... The tail has been carefully braided" (Elisseef 172). More glazed ceramics from the Tang era below.

(Elisseeff 173)

Buddhism continued to influence and inspire Tang artists, as seen in the carved ivory statuette of Guanyin, goddess of mercy, and a great popular favorite (on the left) and carved stone version of the same goddess (on the right.)

(Gascoigne 108; Smith and Wang 143)


(Batterberry, 36)


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

Elisseeff, Danielle and Vadime. New Discoveries in China. Seacacus: Chartwell Books, Inc., 1973.

Gascoigne, Bamber. The Dynasties and Treasures of China. New York: The Viking Press, 1973.

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

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