Monday, May 21, 2018

History of Chinese language

Chinese is the principal language of China, but it is not the only language and, more importantly, it is not even one single language. The official language of the country is known today as Putonghua, which translates as the ‘common language’ or lingua franca and which purists tend to call Standard Chinese. In Taiwan, it is still known as Kuo-yu (in pinyin, Cuoyu) which translates as the national language, a term that was common on the mainland in the 1930s and 1940s. Standard Chinese is almost universally known in the English-speaking world as Mandarin, an even more old-fashioned term than Kuo-yu and one which was used as the court language of the Qing period (1644 ~ 1911). At the time this was known in Chinese as Guanhua, ‘official language,.

Mandarin, or Standard Chinese, is, in fact, a standardized form of the spoken language of the region of northern China that includes the capital, Beijing. It is not, however, spoken universally, even in the capital itself where there is a dialect (Beijing tuhua) used by the local people and which can take some time for even seasoned speakers of Standard

Chinese to get used to. Mandarin is the official spoken language of television and radio and it is taught in all schools: in theory,everyone in China should understand Putonghua even if they are more comfortable speaking a dialect of Mandarin or one of the southern variants of Chinese.

There are various dialects of Mandarin throughout the north and northwest of China, with the most noticeable difference being between the northern and southern dialect areas, but anyone who has ventured far from the major urban centers will have become aware of the great variations in pronunciation within the rural population of the Mandarin-speaking area. Because of the awareness of the existence of dialects within Mandarin, it has become more usual to see the other varieties of Chinese, which were once referred to as ‘dialects’,now promoted to the status of ‘languages’. This recognizes the linguistic reality since they are as different from each other as the languages of, say, the Romance family in Europe—Portuguese and Romanian, for example. Regional forms of speech that are spoken a great distance apart, especially in the rural areas, are mutually incomprehensible, have quite distinct vocabularies and to some extent different grammars.

The most important non-Mandarin Chinese languages are: Cantonese, which is spoken in Guangdong province and in Hong Kong and is also used very widely as a lingua franca among the communities of the Chinese diaspora in Europe and North America; the Shanghai or Wu language of eastern China; and Fujianese or Hokkien from the southeastern province of Fujian, which is also spoken by a majority of the population of Taiwan, whose ancestors migrated from Fujian in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Taiwan, this form of Chinese is often referred to as Taiwanese to distinguish it from the Mandarin or Kuo-yu spoken by the ruling mainlander elite. Technically it is Minnan or Southern Min: both Northern Min and Southern Min are spoken in Fujian on the mainland. Fujianese is also important in the Chinese communities of Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia.

What is unusual about the condition of language in China is that, while each of these regions has its own distinct spoken vernacular, they all use one single form of written Chinese (based on the grammar and vocabulary of Mandarin Chinese) for most practical purposes. This is possible because Chinese characters are essentially non-phonetic. There are in existence variant written forms which are used in certain circumstances to represent the local idioms, for example, popular regional drama, but newspapers, magazines, books (including textbooks for schools) and the internet all use the standard written language.

This standard written language appears in one of two forms of the script: the older form which is retained in Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as in many expatriate communities, and the simplified script which was adopted in the People’s Republic of China as part of a programme of language reform in the 1950s. This reform was part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) efforts to grapple with the serious problem of illiteracy. Simplified Chinese characters, which are based on the original characters but with a reduced number of brush or pen strokes, are disliked and even rejected by many Chinese who live outside of the mainland. In particular, they are avoided in Taiwan because of their association with the CCP, although these objections are often couched in terms of aesthetics and readability rather than politics. Written styles also vary: Taiwan and Hong Kong favour prose styles that have echoes of the classical Chinese tradition and tend to be terser and arguably more elegant, whereas writing on the mainland has deliberately remained closer to the spoken vernaculars as part of a policy of popularization and in the hope that this would help to improve the spread of literacy.

As China has opened culturally to the rest of the Chinese world, there has been greater contact between these styles. Writers on the mainland have felt able to use more complex styles of writing that would once have looked out of place. In Hong Kong, the simplified script is used alongside the traditional version.

Chinese is not unique in this separation of standard written and local spoken forms: the near universal use of a standard form of written Arabic throughout the Middle East disguises the fact that there exists a variety of very different and often mutually unintelligible spoken vernaculars, but the separation between spoken and written Chinese is much greater than that between spoken and written Arabic.

Notes

1. Cantonese (粤语):It is a Chinese dialect spoken in and around the city of Guangzhou in Southern China, by the majority population of Hong Kong and Macau, and as a lingua franca of Guangdong province, eastern Guangxi province, and some neighboring areas. It is used in Hong Kong and Macau as the official spoken language of government and instruction in schools. It is spoken by some of the overseas Chinese communities in Canada, the United States, and Australia, as well as throughout Europe and Southeast Asia, is the most widely spoken dialect and a lingua franca in many of these communities.

2. Mandarin (国语):It is an official standardized language of China based on the Beijing dialect, one of the four official languages of Singapore, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

3. Hokkien (闽南语):A group of mutually intelligible Min Nan Chinese dialects spoken by many overseas Chinese throughout Southeast Asia. It originated from the same dialect in southern Fujian and is mutually intelligible with the Hokkien in Taiwan. It is closely related to Teochew, through mutual comprehension is difficult, and somewhat more distantly related to Hainanese. The Amoy and Taiwanese prestige dialect are considered standards.

4. Middle East (中东):A region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to the Far East. The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, and throughout its history, the Middle East has been a major center of world affairs. The Middle East is also the historical origin of major religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In modem times the Middle East remains a strategically, economically, politically, culturally and religiously sensitive region.


Cantonese, a dialect from southern China that has dominated the Chinatowns of North America for decades, is being rapidly swept aside by Mandarin, the national language of China and the lingua franca of most of the latest Chinese immigrants.

The change can be heard in the neighborhood’s lively restaurants and solemn church services, in parks, street markets, and language schools. It has been accelerated by Chinese-American parents, including many who speak Cantonese at home, as they press their children to learn Mandarin for the advantages it could bring as China’s influence grows in the world. (how to learn Chinese and learn Chinese online in CCHATTY)

But the eclipse of Cantonese—in New York, China and around the world—has become a challenge for older people who speak only that dialect and face increasing

isolation unless they learn Mandarin or English. Though Cantonese and Mandarin share nearly all the same written characters, the pronunciations are vastly different; when spoken, Mandarin may be incomprehensible to a Cantonese speaker, and vice versa.

Mr. Wong, a retired sign maker who speaks English, can still get by with his Cantonese, which remains the preferred language in his circle of friends and in Chinatown’s historic core. A bit defiantly, he said that if he enters a shop and finds the staff does not speak his dialect, “I go to another store.”

Like many others, however, he is resigned to the likelihood that Cantonese—and the people who speak it will soon become just another facet of a polyglot neighborhood. “In 10 years,” Mr. Wong said, “it will be totally different.”

With Mandarin’s ascent has come a realignment of power in Chinese-American communities, where the recent immigrants are gaining economic and political clout, said Peter Kwong, a professor of Asian-American studies at Hunter College.

“The fact of the matter is that you have a whole generation switch, with very few people speaking only Cantonese,” he said. “The Cantonese-speaking populace,,,he added, “is not the player anymore.”

The switch mirrors a sea change underway in China, where Mandarin, as the official language, is becoming the default tongue everywhere.

In North America, its rise also reflects a major shift in immigration. For much of the last century, most Chinese living in the United States and Canada traced their ancestry to a region in the Pearl River Delta that included the district of Taishan. They spoke the Taishanese dialect, which is derived from and somewhat similar to Cantonese.

Immigration reform in 1965 opened the door to a huge influx of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and Cantonese became the dominant tongue. But since the 1990s, the vast majority of new Chinese immigrants has come from mainland China, especially Fujian Province, and tends to speak Mandarin along with their regional dialects.

In New York, many Mandarin speakers have flocked to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Flushing, Queens, which now rivals Chinatown as a center of Chinese-American business and political might, as well as culture and cuisine. In Chinatown, most of the newer immigrants have settled outside the historic core west of the Bowery, clustering instead around East Broadway.

“I can’t even order food on East Broadway,,” said Jan Lee, 44, a furniture designer who has lived all his life in Chinatown and speaks Cantonese. “They don’t speak English; I don’t speak Mandarin. I,m just as lost as everyone else.”

Now Mandarin is pushing into Chinatown’s heart.

For most of the 100 years that the New York Chinese School, on Mott Street, has offered language classes, nearly all have taught Cantonese. Last year, the numbers of Cantonese and Mandarin classes were roughly equal. And this year, Mandarin classes outnumber Cantonese three to one, even though most students are from homes where Cantonese is spoken, said the principal, Kin S. Wong.

Some Cantonese-speaking parents are deciding that it is more important to point their children toward the future than the past~their family’s native dialect even if that leaves them unable to communicate well with relatives in China.

“I figure if they have to acquire a language, I wanted them to have Mandarin because it makes it easier when they go into the workplace,,,said Jennifer Ng, whose 5-year-old daughter studies Mandarin at the language school of the Church of the Transfiguration, a Roman Catholic parish on Mott Street where nearly half the classes are devoted to Mandarin. Her 8-year-old son takes Cantonese, but only because there is no English- speaking Mandarin teacher for his age group.

“Can I tell you the truth?” she said. “They hate it! But it’s important for the future.” Until recently, Sunday Masses at Transfiguration were said in Cantonese. The church now offers two in Mandarin and only one in Cantonese.

At the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, which has been the unofficial government of Chinatown for generations and conducts its business in Cantonese, the president, Justin Yu, said he is the first whose mother tongue is Mandarin to lead the 126-year-old organization. Though he has been taking Cantonese lessons in order to keep up at association meetings, his pronunciation is sometimes a source of hilarity for his colleagues, he said.

“No matter what,,,he added,laughing, “you have to admire my courage.”

But even his association is being surpassed in influence by Fujianese organizations, said Professor Kwong of Hunter College.

Longtime residents seem less threatened than wistful. Though he is known around Chinatown for what he calls his “legendarily bad” Cantonese, Paul Lee, 59,said it pained him that the dialect was disappearing from the place where his family has lived for more than a century.

“It may be a dying language,” he acknowledged. “I just hate to say that.,,

But he pointed out that the changes were a natural part of an evolving immigrant neighborhood: Just as Cantonese sidelined Taishanese, so, too, is Mandarin replacing Cantonese.

Mr. Wong, the principal of the New York Chinese School, said he had tried to adjust to the subtle shifts during his 40 years in Chinatown. When he arrived in 1969,he walked into a coffee shop and placed his order in Cantonese. Other patrons looked at him oddly.

“They said, ‘Where you from?,,,He recalled. “‘Why you speak Cantonese?,,,They were from Taishan, he said, so he switched to Taishanese and everyone was happy.

“And now I speak Mandarin better than Cantonese,” he added with a chuckle. “So, Chinatown—it’s always changing.”

Notes

1. Hunter College (亨特学院) It is a senior college of the City University of New York, located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Hunter was founded in 1870 by Irish immigrant and social reformer Thomas Hunter as a teacher-training school for young women. It remained a women’s college through the 1960s. Today, Hunter is a coeducational liberal art and sciences college that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 100 fields.

2. Pearl River Delta (珠江三角洲):It is in southern People’s Republic of China. It is the low-lying area alongside the Pearl River estuary where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea. Since economic liberalization was adopted by the Chinese government in the late 1970s, the delta has become one of the leading economic regions and a major manufacturing center of China and the world.

3. Taishanese (台山话):It is a dialect of Yue Chinese, and thus a sister dialect of Cantonese. It is mainly spoken in and around Taishan, a county-level city situated southwest of Guangzhou on the coast of Guangdong province.

4. Sunset Park (落日公园):Sunset Park is a neighborhood in the western section of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, USA.

5. Brooklyn(布鲁格林) It is the most populous of New York City’s five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. It is also the westernmost county on Long Island. Brooklyn was an independent city until its consolidation with New York City in 1898 and continues to maintain a distinct culture, independent art scene, and unique architectural heritage. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods are ethnic enclaves where particular ethnic groups and cultures predominate.

6. Flushing (法拉盛):Founded in 1645,it is a neighborhood in the north-central part of the City of New York borough of Queens, 10 miles (16 km) east of Manhattan. Flushing was one of the first Dutch settlements on Long Island. Today, it is one of the largest and most diverse neighborhoods in New York City. Flushing’s diversity is reflected by the numerous ethnic groups that reside there, including people of Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, European, and African American ancestry, as well as Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Bukhari Jewish communities.

7. Queens (皇后区):The easternmost of the five boroughs of New York City. The largest borough in area and the second-largest in population, it is coextensive with Queens County, an administrative division of New York state, in the United States. Located on the western portion of Long Island, Queens is home to two of the three major New York City area airports, JFK International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.

8. East Broadway (东百老汇大街):It is a two-way east-west street in the Chinatown and Lower East Side neighborhoods of the New York City borough of Manhattan. The western portion of the street is primarily populated by Chinese immigrants (mainly Foochowese from Fuzhou, Fujian), while the eastern portion is home to a large number of Jews.

9. New York Chinese School (纽约华併学校):It is a non-profit school located in Chinatown, New York City, that was established in 1909 for overseas Chinese children. It initially opened with 20 students. Today, there are more than 3,000 students in grade levels ranging from kindergarten to high school and it has a faculty of approximately 50 people.

10. Mott Street (莫特街):It is a narrow but busy thoroughfare that runs in a north-south direction in the borough of Manhattan in New York City in the United States. It is best known as Chinatown's unofficial “Main Street”.

11. Church of the Transfiguration (显圣荣堂):A Franciscan church located on Mount Tabor in Israel. It is traditionally believed to be the site where the Transfiguration of Christ took place, an event in the Gospels in which Jesus is transfigured upon an unnamed mountain and speaks with Moses and Elijah.

12. Roman Catholic (罗马天主教):Also known as the Roman Catholic Church, it is the world’s largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity. The Catholic Church is among the oldest institutions in the world and has played a prominent role in the history of Western ccivilization

13. Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (中华会馆):It is a historical Chinese Association established in various parts of the United States with large populations of Chinese. It is also known by other names such as Chong Wa Benevolent Association in Seattle, Washington and United Chinese Society in Hawaii. The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) is the oldest community organization in Chinatown. The CCBA has represented and served the needs of Chinese Americans in New York City ever since founded. Historically it has performed a quasi-ggovernmentalrole in the Chinese

community. Today there are local CCBA agencies in 26 cities with substantial Chinese populations across North America.

Tea and the Chinese People

Chinese tea culture refers to the methods of preparation of tea, the equipment used to make tea and the occasions in which tea is consumed in China. Tea culture in China differs from that of Europe, Britain or Japan in such things as preparation methods, tasting methods and the occasions for which it is consumed. Even now, in both casual and formal Chinese occasions, tea is consumed regularly. In addition to being a drink, Chinese tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Chinese cuisine.

China is the home country of tea. Before the Tang Dynasty, Chinese tea was exported by land and sea, first to Japan and Korea, then to India and Central Asia and, in the Ming and Qing dynasties, to the Arabian Peninsula. In the early period of the 17th century, Chinese tea was exported to Europe, where the upper class adopted the fashion of drinking

tea. Chinese tea—like Chinese silk and china—has become synonymous worldwide with refined culture. At the heart of the art of tea^the study and practice of tea in all its aspects—is the simple gesture of offering a cup of tea to a guest that for Chinese people today is a fundamental social custom, as it has been for centuries. China traces the development of tea as an art form to Lu Yu, known as 4tthe Saint of Tea” in Chinese history, who lived during the Tang Dynasty and who wrote The Book of Tea, the first ever treatise on tea and tea culture. The spirit of tea permeates Chinese culture, and throughout the country there are many kinds of teas, teahouses, tea legends, tea artifacts and tea customs. Better-known places to enjoy a good cup of tea in China include Beijing noted for its variety of teahouses; Fujian and Guangdong provinces and other places in the southeast of China that serve gongfu tea, a formal serving of tea in tiny cups; the West Lake in Hangzhou, also the home of the Tea Connoisseurs Association,noted for its excellent green tea; and provinces in southwest China like Yunnan where the ethnic groups less affected by foreign cultures retain tea ceremonies and customs in original tea-growing areas.

The Chinese people, in their drinking of tea, place much significance on the act of “savoring.” “Savoring tea” is not only a way to discern good tea from mediocre tea, but also how people take delight in their reverie and in tea-drinking itself. Snatching a bit of leisure from a busy schedule, making a kettle of strong tea, securing a serene space, and serving and drinking tea by yourself can help banish fatigue and frustration, improve your thinking ability and inspire you with enthusiasm. You may also imbibe it slowly in small sips to appreciate the subtle allure of tea-drinking, until your spirits soar up and up into a sublime aesthetic realm. Buildings, gardens, ornaments and tea sets are the elements that form the ambience for savoring tea. A tranquil, refreshing, comfortable and neat locale is certainly desirable for drinking tea. Chinese gardens are well known in the world and beautiful Chinese landscapes are too numerous to count. Teahouses tucked away in gardens and nestled beside the natural beauty of mountains and rivers are enchanting places of repose for people to rest and recreate themselves.

China is a country with a time-honored civilization and a land of ceremony and decorum. Whenever guests visit, it is necessary to make and serve tea to them. Before serving tea, you may ask them for their preferences as to what kind of tea they fancy and serve them the tea in the most appropriate teacups. In the course of serving tea, the host should take careful note of how much water is remaining in the cups and in the kettle. Usually, if the tea is made in a teacup, boiling water should be added after half of the cup has been consumed; and thus the cup is kept filled so that the tea retains the same bouquet and remains pleasantly warm throughout the entire course of tea-drinking. Snacks, sweets

and other dishes may be served at tea time to complement the fragrance of the tea and to allay one’s hunger.

There are several special circumstances in which tea is prepared and consumed.

• As a sign of respect

In Chinese society, the younger generation always shows its respect to the older generation by offering a cup of tea. Inviting and paying for their elders to go to restaurants for tea is a traditional activity on holidays. In the past, people of lower rank served tea to higher ranking people. Today, as Chinese society becomes more liberal, sometimes at home parents may pour a cup of tea for their children, or a boss may even pour tea for subordinates at restaurants. The lower ranking person should not expect the higher rank person to serve him or her tea in formal occasions, however.

• For a family gathering

When sons and daughters leave home to work and get married, they may seldom visit their parents. As a result, parents may seldom meet their grandchildren. Going to restaurants and drinking tea,therefore, becomes an important activity for family gatherings. Every Sunday, Chinese restaurants are crowded, especially when people celebrate festivals. This phenomenon reflects Chinese family values.

• To apologize

In Chinese culture, people make serious apologies to others by pouring tea for them. For example, children serving tea to their parents is a sign of regret and submission.

• To express thanks to your elders on one’s wedding day

In the traditional Chinese marriage ceremony, both the bride and groom kneel in front of their parents and serve them tea. That is a way to express their gratitude. In front of their parents, it is a practice for the married couple to say, “Thank you for bringing us up. Now we are getting married. We owe it all to you•,’ The parents will usually drink a small portion of the tea and then give them a red envelope, which symbolizes good luck. Another variant is for the bride to serve tea to the groom's parents, symbolizing that she is to become a part of the latter’s family.

• To connect large families on wedding days

The tea ceremony during weddings also serves as a means for both parties in the wedding to meet with members of the other family. As Chinese families can be rather extended, one or two hundred people, it is entirely possible during a courtship to not have been introduced to someone. This was particularly true in older generations where the patriarch may have had more than one wife and not all family members were always on good terms. As such, during the tea ceremony, the couple would serve tea to all family

members and call them by their official title. Drinking the tea symbolized acceptance into the family. Refusal to drink would symbolize opposition to the wedding and is quite unheard of since it would result in a loss of “face”. Older relations so introduced would give a red envelope to the matrimonial couple while the couple would be expected to give a red envelope to younger, unmarried relations.

Chinese Painting

Chinese painting, the flower of Chinese culture, is distinguished by a spirit and an atmosphere all its own, entirely different from Western painting. It is as different from Western painting as Chinese poetry is different from western poetry. That difference is hard to grasp and express. It has a certain tone and atmosphere, visible in Western painting, but essentially different and achieved by different means. It shows a certain economy of material marked by the many blank spaces, an idea of composition determined by its own harmony and marked by a certain “rhythmic vitality,” and a boldness and freedom of the brush which impress the onlooker in an unforgettable manner.

Somehow a piece of Chinese painting before us has undergone an inner process of transformation in the artist’s mind, shorn of its irrelevancies, its disharmonies, and giving us only a completely satisfying whole, so true to life and yet so different from it. The design is more obvious, the elimination of material more rigidly carried out, the points of contrast and concentration easier to trace, and we decidedly feel that the artist has interfered with the material reality and presented it to us only as it appears to him, without losing its essential likeness or intelligibility to others. It is subjective without the latter*s unintelligibility to us common men. It manages to achieve a decidedly subjective appearance of things without making contortions. It does not try to paint all before one’s eyes, and it leaves a great deal to the onlooker’s imagination, without degenerating into a geometric puzzle. Sometimes the concentration on the immediate object is so intensive that only the tip of a plum branch is given in the whole picture and left there as perfect. And yet, with all this subjective interference with the material reality, the effect is not a jarring assertion of the artist’s ego, but a complete harmony with nature. How was this achieved? And how did this peculiar tradition grow up?

This artistic tradition did not come by chance or by an accidental discovery. Its characteristics may be most conveniently summed up, I think, in the word lyricism, and this lyricism came from a certain type of human spirit and culture, for we must remember that

Chinese painting is closely related, in spirit and technique, to Chinese calligraphy and Chinese poetry. Calligraphy gave it its technique, the initial twist which determined its future development, and Chinese poetry lent it its spirit. For poetry, painting and calligraphy are closely related arts in China. The best way to understanding Chinese painting is to study these influences which went into the building of that peculiar tradition.

Briefly stated, this peculiar tradition, which we have called it lyricism, is the result of two revolts which modem Western painting is going through, but which came to the history of Chinese painting in the eighth century. They are the revolt against the subjection of the artist’s lines to the painted objects, and the revolt against a photographic reproduction of the material reality. Chinese calligraphy helped it to solve the first problem, and Chinese poetry helped over the second.

Chinese painting developed and was classified by theme into six genres: Figure painting, Landscape painting, Flower and bird painting, Court painting, Literati painting and Dan Qing.

> Figure painting:

It includes portraits, story painting and genre painting with figures as the main subject. Lines are the key point in the portrayal.

> Landscape painting:

Chinese landscape paintings can be divided into blue-and-green landscape, gold-and-green landscape, light-purple-red landscape and water ink landscape according to the colors used.

> Court painting:

It refers to work by those professional painters employed by the royal court or imitations of their works by other painters.

> Literati painting:

It generally refers to paintings by intellectuals and officials, emphasizing more the scholarly execution of brush strokes and ink colors in expression than the painting’s likeness to real images.

> Flower and bird painting:

Flowers, rocks and birds are usually the main subject of this kind of painting. Technically, it is an elaborate style with colors and free style with ink.

> Dan Qing (traditional Chinese painting)

The Chinese water ink painting actually developed from early “contour lines with filled-in colors” painting. “Dan Qing” literally means the mineral colors of cinnabar and azurite that were used in early paintings. So, people today use this term for traditional Chinese painting.

The tools used in traditional Chinese painting are paintbrush, ink, traditional paint and special paper or silk. Chinese ink is a wonderful substance, capable of an immense range and an extraordinary beauty of tone. The painter uses a pointed-tipped brush made of hair of goat, deer, or wolf set in a shaft of bamboo. He paints on a length of silk or a sheet of paper, the surface of which is absorbent, allowing no erasure or correction. Color is sometimes added to make the effect more true to life, but the ink-drawing remains almost always the foundation of the design. Cooler is not a formal element in the design as in Western art.

Chinese paintings are usually in the form of hanging pictures or of horizontal scrolls, in both cases normally kept rolled up. The latter paintings, often of great length, are unrolled bit by bit and enjoyed as a reader enjoys reading a manuscript. A succession of pictures is presented, though the composition is continuous. Thus, in the case of landscape, for which this form has been used with most felicity, one seems to be actually passing through the country depicted.

Chinese technique admits no correction, and the artist must therefore know beforehand what he intends to do. He closely observes and stores his observations in his memory. He conceives his design, and having completed the mental image of what he intends to paint, he transfers it swiftly and with sure strokes to the silk. It is said that in a master’s work the idea is present even where the brush has not passed. This, however, demands confidence, speed, athe nd a mastery of technique acquired only by long practice.

In early times, such as the Shang and Zhou dynasties, Chinese paintings were made chiefly for sacrifices to Heaven and to the spirits of clan ancestors, who were believed to influence the living for good. Chinese society has always laid great stress on the need for man to understand the pattern of nature and to live in accordance with it. The world of nature was seen as the visible manifestation of the workings of the Great Ultimate through the generative interaction of yin and yang. As it developed, the purpose of Chinese painting turned from propitiation and sacrifice to the expression of man’s understanding of these forces through the painting of landscape, bamboo, birds and flowers. This might be called the metaphysical, Taoist aspect of Chinese painting.

Chinese painting also had social and moral functions. The earliest paintings referred to in ancient texts depicted on the walls of palaces and ancestral halls benevolent emperors, sages, virtuous ministers, loyal generals, and their evil opposites as examples and warnings to the living. Portrait painting also had this moral function, depicting not the features of the subject so much as his character and his role in society. Therefore, it is said that it had the same merits as each of The Six Classics. This was typical Conflician function of paining.

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