Chinese New Year was last week, and to celebrate, I’ve curated a group of 6 incredible examples of Chinese art for you to enjoy. These amazing Chinese artworks range from the 2nd century B.C.E. all the way up to 2012.
I’ve also included some Chinese art lesson ideas along with the artworks. Don’t forget to read these tips on how to talk about art with kids.
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Massive Terracotta Army
This group of terracotta sculptures is one of the most amazing collections of artworks in the world. Over 8,000 sculpture of soldiers, horses, chariots, and non-military figures were buried underground as a part of the tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. These were unearthed only about 40 years ago by a group of Chinese laborers digging a well. It’s just flabbergasting. You can read more about these sculptures on the Smithsonian’s website. There are tons of related chinese art lesson ideas online as well as a well-rated children’s book about the Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China.
This sculpture is of Manjushri, who is the Buddhist bodhisattva of wisdom. A bodisattva is a being who has worked hard and achieved a state of enlightenment where he discovers the ultimate truth about life. He sits on a lion and often “carries a book of truth and a sword that cuts through the darkness of ignorance” [Source: Kimbell Art Museum].
This is a great one to discuss symbolism and emotion. Study the hand symbols, the lotuses, the expressions, and the lion. This artwork could also be paired with a self-portrait project with students making portraits of themselves sitting atop an animal that represents themselves.
One the most notable art forms of China is porcelain. Porcelain is pure white clay with the mineral, feldspar, added to it. The blue glaze was made with the mineral, cobalt, which was very expensive. This jar shows a dragon flying through the sky with clouds with some monstrous faces floating above. Students could make their own porceilain-style piece of clay. Check out this lesson plan from the Art Institute for Chicago.
You might find it weird to include this, but I totally think this qualifies as a work of art. When I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics in 2008, I was completely blown away, and I have never forgotten how powerful it was to see all those glowing drummers playing in unison. It was pretty amazing. Studying the Olympic ceremonies of countries would be a great way to teach about the countries.
Here is a video of the ceremony in case you missed it in 2008!
When choosing art for this post, I came across this article with The Top 10 Chinese Artists (Not Name Ai Weiwei). This painting really stood out to me from that collection of art. I just love this painting. It’s just so joyful and fun and such a different artwork that what you think of when you think of Chinese art. Paintings done in the style of this with big smiling faces would be such a fun art project for kids of all ages, don’t you think?
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