An Analysis on the Function of Self-Communication of Traditional Chinese Painting



It is widely accepted that the features of traditional Chinese painting (Guo hua) spontaneously resulted from traditional Chinese culture and philosophy, especially Taoism which emphasizes emptiness. The author of this article argues that in additional to historical and philosophical bases, Chinese artists’ motivation and pressure they conform should be taken into consideration in terms of analyzing the function and characteristics of traditional Chinese painting. Basically, it is Chinese artists’ motivation to build a barrier between viewers and themselves (self-communication) that partly contributes to the unique strategies and skills that shape the style of Chinese painting. The clue of self-communication can be clearly seen by analyzing the principles of traditional Chinese painting, which includes blurred representation, harmony and self-closure. Correspondingly, major painting techniques, namely, simplicity, emptiness and Chinese character (calligraphy related), were developed to achieve that goal of self-communication. The self-communication of traditional Chinese painting also leads to other consequences that have influenced western painting.


Traditional Chinese painting; Self-communication; Emptiness; Painting techniques

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