Home Institution

Barnard College

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Program Name

China: Chinese Culture and Ethnic Minorities


Chinese painting and painting theory have roots within China’s major philosophies significantly including Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. Chinese painting while not exclusively adherent to the beliefs and practices of a single belief system instead reveals to overlap these beliefs in the thought process and execution of painting. There is a strong precedent of Chinese painters and their styles embodying Daoist philosophy in not only the appearance and practice of painting but in painting theory as well. Searching for the truth, or the Dao, was a key goal of many artists who through cultivation of one’s intellect or artistic skill could potentially come to a truth. However, it is important to understand that while many theories can be connected to the tenants of Daoism, Chinese painting theory is a sort of organic process encompassing Chinese culture and philosophy but the historical figures who emulated the ideas and promoted them. Therefore, it is difficult to point out specific concrete examples of specific religious or philosophical tendencies in a Chinese’ personal painting technique. The focus in this paper is the culmination of art theory that evolved through Chinese history which includes all major cultural factors. This is a discussion on how individual painters, mainly the learned men of society incorporated years of theory into personal cultivation in the form of painting. The “truth” that the artists pursued can be translated in Chinese to Dao, the way, and directly related to the principle concept of Daoism. Through an understanding of culminated art theory and philosophy one may begin to understand the purpose and truth or Dao behind Chinese painting.


Art Practice | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


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