Course Code


Course Name

Chinese Painting: Aesthetics and History


Monday 14:30-17:15


WMY 407


Dr. Elaine Kwok, Yin Ning

Teaching Assistant

Mavis Siu

Course Description

This course looks at the history and aesthetics of Chinese painting and its role in Chinese culture,
showing that art and life often are closely intertwined with each other. The following themes will
be dealt with: the aesthetic evaluation of painting; the pictorial features unique in Chinese ink
painting; the roles of the artist and the spectator; the aesthetic principles of Chinese painting; the
cultural hierarchy of painting, poetry and calligraphy; the aesthetic valuation of expressiveness
and descriptiveness in painting; and the cultural correlation between the quality of a painting and
the virtue of the painter. Historically, we will cover landscape painting since the Five Dynasties
(907 to 960), the evolution of literati painting since the Song dynasty (960-1279), the evaluation
of painting in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the eccentric culture in big cities in Qing China (1644-
1911), and the cultural assimilation of European painting since the 20th century. We will deal with
these topics by examining major works of painting and by analyzing primary texts as well as
contemporary scholarly writings.

Course Outline

Unit 1 – Introduction: Prejudices and Misconceptions

Unit 2 – The Neolithic to the Han Dynasty: Picturehood vs Objecthood

Unit 3 – The Three Kingdoms to the Tang Dynasty: The Six Laws

Unit 4 – The Five Dynasties to the Northern Song Dynasty: Nature and Culture

Unit 5 – The Southern Song Dynasty to the Yuan Dynasty: The Artist & the Personified

Unit 6 – The Ming Dynasty: Art and Society

Unit 7 – The Qing Dynasty: Art, Society, and China-Europe Interactions

Unit 8 – Chinese Art in the 20th Century: Art, Chineseness and Global Context

Seminar Topic: Chineseness and Aesthetic Essences

Seminar Topic: Landscape Painting

Seminar Topic: Literati Painting

Assessment & Assignments

Students are required to express themselves in the form of an in-class seminar presentation, evaluation reports, class participation, and a final paper. The final paper requires students to write an academic paper in order to demonstrate their understanding of Chinese painting history by participating in the scholarly debates about the various aesthetic and artistic issues put forth in the course (please see the assignments below.  Details will be provided in separate documents available in due course).

– In-class presentation on one seminar topic (30%)
– Seminar evaluation report (20%)
– Class participation (10%)
– Final paper (40%)



Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the
disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations.
Details may be found at each
assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of the
policies, regulations and procedures.