Ming Dynasty Art

Leaf Painting by Chen Hongshou.jpgThe Ming Dynasty continued the imperial Chinese tradition of support for artistic endeavors. A wide variety of arts flourished during the period, ranging from painting to drama and from poetry to music.

Porcelain and Lacquer

The decoration of porcelain reached a new level of sophistication with glazed designs showing scenes of immense intricacy, at times coming close to the level of detail found in paintings.

Similarly, lacquer carvings approached the height of their beauty and complexity during the Ming Dynasty. Wealthy families often displayed these items as a sign of their status and to show off their respect for the arts. Furniture, decorations, and even writing materials were chosen for their aesthetic impact.

Famous Ming Dynasty Painters

Painting styles in the Ming Dynasty were evolutionary rather than revolutionary, with clear influences being seen from the previous Yuan and Song periods. A number of China's most famous painters lived during the Ming era. Among these were Qiu Yeng, Wen Zhengming, Ni Zan, and Shen Zhou.

Their works were in such great demand that it was possible for the best artists to obtain a comfortable living simply from commissions. Existing paintings also sold for high prices to collectors. One account states that Qiu Ying received six pounds of silver as payment for the painting of a long scroll marking a wealthy man's mother's birthday.

Ceramic Arts

The main center for sculpted porcelain production during the Ming Dynasty was Jingdezhen, although Dehua was also important, especially in the export trade. By the later Ming period, Chinese exports were becoming increasingly important to the empire's economy.

White was the dominant color for artistic ceramics, although blue became widely used as the era wore on. Other colors were occasionally employed, but the blue and white combination became characteristic of Chinese porcelain design. To increase the desirability and decorative appeal of ceramic sculptures, precious substances such as ivory and jade were also widely used.