The Mona Lisa is the archetypal portrait. But in Chinese art, paintings of figures are never called “portraits”. Natural phenomena such as thunderstorms and avalanches never appear in the works of ancient Chinese painters, though logically they must have come across such unusual or terrifying scenes of nature. Furthermore, the flowers that appear in traditional Chinese flower and bird paintings are never thrust into vases as they so often are in Western compositions. So, can traditional Chinese flower and bird painting really be regarded as a form of still life?
Applying a comparative approach to Chinese and Western art, this book examines the characteristics of traditional Chinese art and analyses the distinction between figure painting and portraiture. It examines the scenery in Chinese landscape painting and the sense of poetry within the paintings of flowers and birds so that the reader comes to understand the unique essence of Chinese art and is gradually led towards the evanescent world of spiritual abstraction displayed in Chinese painting.