Course Code


Course Name

Chinese Painting: Aesthetics and History


Monday 1:30-4:15pm


WMY 403


Elaine Yin Ning KWOK

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

Detailed Course Outline is available on Blackboard.

Week 1: Introduction: Prejudices and Misconceptions

Week 2: The Neolithic to the Han Dynasty: Picturehood vs Objecthood

Week 3: The Three Kingdoms to the Tang Dynasty: The Six Laws

Week 4: The Five Dynasties to the Northern Song Dynasty

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

Week 6: The Ming Dynasty: Art and Society

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

Week 8: The 20th Century: Art, Chineseness and Global Context

Week 9: Visual Analysis Presentation & Written Report Due

Week 10: Special Topic 1: Landscape Painting

Week 11: Special Topic 2: Litrati Painting

Week 12: Special Topic 3: Chineseness and Aesthetic Essences

Week 13: Special Topic 4: Cross-Cultural Exchange

Assessment & Assignments

Visual analysis – presentation (10%) and written report (10%)

In-class seminar on one special topic (30%)

Final paper (50%)

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

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.