Go back to the main article.


Character Pinyin English
艺术 yìshù art (N)
艺术家 yìshùjiā artist (N)
huà to paint, draw (V)
雕刻品 diāokèpǐn sculpture (N)
创意 chuàngyì to create (VO); creativity (N)
艺术工业 yìshù gōngyè art industry (N)
jade (N)
书法 shūfǎ calligraphy (N)
数字艺术 shùzì yìshù digital art (N)
展览 zhǎnlǎn to display, to show (N); display, exhibition (N)
博物馆 bówùguǎn museum (N)
陶瓷 táocí pottery or ceramics (N)
摄影术 shèyǐngshù photography (N)


1. Find an image of a contemporary Chinese artwork (a photograph, painting, calligraphy, or sculpture) online (see links below) or in the library. Describe it to your classmates (in Chinese or English). Explain what you see, what materials are used, and why you like (or dislike) this piece of art.
2. Find out if any local museums are having, going to have, or have recently had, exhibitions by Chinese artists, or about Chinese art. Try to go there with your class; it will be a lot of fun! If there are no museums or exhibitions, you can make your own in-class exhibition using the images you found in activity 1!


NB! The images on these pages are the work of professional and talented artists. Some parents/teacher, however, may find some of the images unsuitable for younger viewers.

Yishu (艺术, the Chinese word for “art”) is a magazine that focuses on contemporary Chinese art. On their webpage you can find the table of contents for recent and back issues, and interesting links to other websites, events, and more. A great place to start your research.

Study Questions

Before you read

  • What do you think about when you hear the term “contemporary Chinese art”? What is “contemporary” anyway? Do you know any contemporary Chinese artists? Have you ever seen a piece of contemporary Chinese art?

While reading

  • When did Chinese traditional art begin to change, and under what kind of (social) circumstances did these changes take place?
  • Describe the different types of contemporary art in China. Name one Chinese artist for each type, and also identify one (foreign) artist that influenced that type of art.
  • Why did many Chinese think that art had to change, or in other words, what did they find unsatisfying about the traditional art?
  • What was the role of Japan and the Japanese in the development of Chinese contemporary art?
  • Despite the many changes, some artists still followed traditional views. Name some of those artists and describe their work and style. Could you say they formed a uniform group of artists? Why, or why not?
  • Describe the relationship between art and politics in China between 1949 and 1976. Can you find any examples of a similar relationship between arts and politics in your own country?
  • Traditionally, Chinese society has a very different idea about “copying” somebody’s style of painting or writing than other cultures. Describe this traditional view (for example expressed by Xu Beihong), and discuss how it is different from your own thoughts about “copying” and “originality.”
  • What do you think about the expression “art for arts sake”? Is that at all possible? Do you think that kind of art is useful? Why, or why not?

Related articles