History of Sumi-e – Art and Painting in Ancient China


The Art and Painting in China During the Shang Dynasty

Painting in China did not become independent until the 4th century CE, but the history of Chinese art is much older. The Shang Dynasty was the first dynasty in which contemporary written documents were composed, mostly in form of oracle texts on bones or tortoise shells. Besides this development in the field of script, the Shang Dynasty is known for its achievements on the field of bronze casting and pottery. As for bronze casting, the pieces created were weapons and ritual vessels, with characteristic ornaments. The vessels were used to ceremonial purposes and contained either liquids or food for offerings, depending on their shape. The outside of the vessels are often decorated with ornaments such as the taotie-mask, birds, snakes, dragons or zoomorphic creatures. In the field of pottery, Shang Dynasty potters managed to raise the temperature during the firing process, which resulted in now water proof ceramics with a hard body. Designs were carved or pressed, mostly in geometric shapes which cover the complete surface of the vessel. Furthermore, the first glazes appeared – potters of earlier dynasties had only painted their ceramics after firing. The application of a greenish, slightly yellow glaze is another development in Shang ceramic art.

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