Cloisonné vase, design made by shaping brass wires and then applying lacquer in-between
Painting, an art form of the wealthy, reached high levels under the Song. Artists were more interested in nature than in the Buddhists subjects of earlier dynasties.
Song artists painted Taoist themes--serene landscapes that suggested the ideal world of nature. In this world, people were insignificant. Artists painted pictures that showed towering mountains or great rivers, with tiny human figures or houses at the bottom--a sign that people were inferior to nature. The approach of Chinese painters was very different from most Western artists, who often showed human beings at the center of nature, if they painted nature subjects at all.
Chinese artists of that time also were not as interested in color as they were in capturing the spirit of what they were painting. Many pictures from the Sung time are monochromes. That is, they used only one color in several shades.
In Song times, painting was the finest embodiment of the Song genius. It is the landscape painting of the Song period which in the eyes of most critics is the supreme achievement of Chinese art. Many Song Dynasty landscapes were painted on a silk or paper scroll about two metres long and more than 30 centimetres wide. They were meant to be unrolled slowly so that no more than 60 centimetres was visible at any one time, the better to display the fine details and exquisite brushwork. The scrolls generally depict gnat-sized travellers who are walking along a river or through a gorge against a backdrop of towering mist-shrouded mountains.
Other Chinese Art: