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Culture insider: Pretty women in Chinese paintings

2014-05-23 07:09

By (chinadaily.com.cn)

China has a long history of using women as objects of art since the Warring States Period (475-221BC) and Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD24) when people painted female figures on silk.

Each time in history has its own idea of "beauty" and from early times artists have recorded their particular version of "beauty". Artists in China are no different. Throughout the ages, the image of the "ideal" beauty has been subject to the trends and politics of the times, and through their legacies we can gain a better understanding of Chinese history.

Let's take a look at the beautiful women in Chinese paintings from the country's different dynasties.

Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD420-581)

The early stages of traditional Chinese depictions of beauty began in the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Virtuous women and fairies composed the main subjects in these paintings, and they generally came from literary works.

"Luoshen Appraisal Painting" by Gu Kaizhi from Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD317-420) is a good example. Its theme was drawn from the story Luoshen Appraisal, penned by the famous writer of the Three Kingdoms (220-280) Cao Zhi, who was forced to part with his lover. Luoshen is the Goddess of the river Luo.

In the painting, Luoshen has delicate features and a slender body. Her expression is gentle. She did not show her joy when she encountered Cao Zhi or reveal her grief when he left. This shows Luoshen's refined character. With an original concept and heart-stirring scenes, the painting is considered a classic in Chinese art.

From the vivid description of the goddess, one can see that the typical image of beauty in that period was a thin, weak body as well as fragility graceful bearing.

Culture insider: Pretty women in Chinese paintings

"Luoshen Appraisal Painting" by Gu Kaizhi (part).[Photo/ gxun.edu.cn]


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