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9.10: Qing Period (1636 – 1911)

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  • The Qing Dynasty was the last of the great imperial reigns in China, lasting almost 300 years, growing its territory and increasing the population from 150 million to over 450 million with an integrated economic structure. Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism all existed in the culture and influenced artwork. Painting became one of the significant forms of art during this period, and competing schools of different styles formed with individualistic masters.

    Wang Hui (1632 – 1717), a landscape painter, followed his father, uncles, and grandfather, whom all dominated art in China during the Qing dynasty. He was a strong proponent for the tradition of copying the techniques of the ancient masters and established the stylistic foundation followed by others. He learned to paint at an early age based on the Shan Shui style of painting, using ink and a brush instead of paints. Hui's dominant subject matter was scenery or landscapes that surrounded his life, with waterfalls, mountains, and rivers. All of his work was based on classical Chinese traditions and preceding great masters.

    In 1691, he was called to document the emperor's journeys. Wang created a set of twelve huge hand scrolls, each measuring between 12.1 and 24.3 meters in length. The complete set was over 225 meters in length, and he made full-scale drafts on paper before creating the final version on silk. The finished scrolls had over 30,000 figures set in the landscape of the area and were considered the grandest creation of the age. The Beauty of the Green Mountains and River(9.37) set in the canyon of the river was one of the scrolls.

    The Beauty of Green Mountains and River
    9.37 The Beauty of Green Mountains and River
    Reminiscences of Qinhuai
    9. 38 Reminiscences of Qinhuai

    One of the individual painters, Shitao (1642-1707), gained fame from his revolutionary digression away from traditional techniques based on defined rules of beauty and acceptability. Instead of carefully rendered images of nature, he used washes, freer brushstrokes, and subtle monotone colors. The mountain in Reminiscences of Qinhuai (9.38) thrusts skyward, only seeming to fold over and bow in humility. The monk in the boat looks up at the mountain as though respecting the humbleness of the natural world.