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Yuan Dynasty china bowls

Mongols and Chinese art

You might think that the invasion of the Mongols in 1279 AD would have killed off a lot of artists and there wouldn’t be much good art during this time, but that’s not true. Or, you might think that Chinese artists would begin to paint in a more Mongol style, but that’s not what happened either.

Who were the Mongols?
Art of Central Asia
The Yuan Dynasty in China
Lots more China articles

Landscapes with people in them

Actually traditional painting continued at a very high level throughout this time. Artists went right on drawing landscapes, although people became more important in the landscapes than they had been under the Song Dynasty. Artists also began to pay a lot of attention to different kinds of brushstrokes and the surface of paintings.

What was Song Dynasty art like?

Still-lifes of flowers

Still-life painting of objects like flowers also kept on being important, or even got more important.

At this time, a lot of rich men painted pictures, men who wanted to show how artistic and well-educated they were.

Porcelain to sell on the Silk Road

Pottery also kept right on changing and getting better during the Yuan dynasty. One of the main things that China could sell to the Silk Road traders was porcelain, which only Chinese potters knew how to make.

What is porcelain?
What was the Silk Road?

So Chinese potters worked hard to make new and interesting pottery every year, for the traders to sell.

Learn by doing: painting a Chinese scroll
More about the Yuan Dynasty
More about the Mongols
Ming Dynasty Art

Bibliography and further reading about Yuan Dynasty art:

The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, by Jessica Rawson and others (1996). Rawson is a curator at the British Museum, and she uses the collection of the British Museum to illustrate this book. Library Journal calls it “easily the best introductory overview of Chinese art to appear in years”.

Art in China (Oxford History of Art Series), by Craig Clunas (1997). Not specifically , but a good introduction to the spirit of Chinese art. Warning: this one is not arranged in chronological order. Instead, it has chapters on sculpture, calligraphy, and so on.

Ming Dynasty art
More about the Yuan Dynasty (Mongol period)
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