There are a variety of formats used in traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. Typically, these works are created by artists on sheets of paper or silk that are laid on a flat surface and then mounted onto similar material with water soluble glue. Most of these works of art are meant to be shown only occasionally and then put away in storage.
Explore three formats of Chinese painting.
One form of Chinese painting is the handscroll, a continuous roll of paper onto which an artist paints an image in a horizontal format. Pieces of paper are often added to the mounting after the work of art to provide a space for viewers to inscribe their comments.
The painted image is viewed by unrolling and rolling the scroll with your hands, from right to left, in the same direction as Chinese text. The process of slowly and carefully unrolling a scroll allows you to enter into the space of the painting and to look at the work at your own pace.
Handscrolls are rolled, stored, and viewed only occasionally.
The hanging-scroll format is used for vertical compositions. The image is mounted onto paper and framed with decorative silk borders.
A cord attached to a wooden strip at the top of the painting is used to hang the work on a wall. A wooden rod at the bottom not only serves as a weight when the work is hanging but also helps to roll up the painting for storage.
Wu Yunlai was a 19th-century artist of the orthodox literati tradition that was developed at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). His mother was a skilled painter, calligrapher, and poet and provided him with his early instruction.
This album features a series of twelve landscapes. Wu Yunlai follows the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) trend of creating paintings in the style of earlier masters, imitating their subjects and exploring their shared artistic lineages. This type of referential painting was intended for an informed audience, which would share the artist’s knowledge of earlier works.
Browse the twelve paintings in this album. Press and hold the larger images to zoom and magnify each painting.
Explore the many scenes in this 17th century treasure.
This painting, over thirty feet in length, depicts spring activities in the women's quarters of the imperial palace during the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Beautiful women, a painting subject known as shinuhua, gained popularity during the Qing dynasty.
The imaginary nature of this subject allowed painters more artistic freedom and a chance to demonstrate their creativity.Explore It!
Discover the rich texture found in this masterpiece.
This remarkable silk tapestry in VMFA's collection depicts legendary Chinese deities known as the Three Stars.
The entire tapestry is woven in the cut-silk (kesi) technique. Gold and silver embroidery form the figures' costumes, and their facial features are painted in fine lines.
The integration of cut-silk weaving, embroidery, and painting make this scroll among the most spectacular tapestries produced in the Suzhou imperial workshops during the 18th century.Explore It!