Sunday, September 14, 2008

798 Art Zone

798 Art Zone , or Dashanzi Art District, is a part of Dashanzi in the of Beijing that houses a thriving artist community, among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York's Greenwich Village or SoHo, but faces impending destruction from the forces driving Beijing's urban sprawl.

The area is often called the 798 Art District or Factory 798 although technically, Factory #798 is only one of several structures within a complex formerly known as Joint Factory 718. The buildings are located inside alleys number 2 and 4 on Jiǔxiānqiáo Lù , south of the Dàshānziqiáo flyover .


The Dashanzi factory complex began as an extension of the "Socialist Unification Plan" of military-industrial cooperation between the Soviet Union and the newly-formed People's Republic of China. By 1951, 156 "joint factory" projects had been realized under that agreement, part of the Chinese government's first . However the People's Liberation Army still had a dire need of modern electronic components, which were produced in only two of the joint factories. The Russians were unwilling to undertake an additional project at the time, and suggested that the Chinese turn to East Germany from which much of the Soviet Union's electronics equipment was imported. So at the request of then-Premier Zhou Enlai, scientists and engineers joined the first Chinese trade delegation to East Germany in 1951, visiting a dozen factories. The project was greenlighted in early 1952 and a Chinese preparatory group was sent to East Berlin to prepare design plans. This project, which was to be the largest by East Germany in China, was then informally known as Project #157.

The architectural plans were left to the Germans, who chose a functional Bauhaus-influenced design over the more ornamental , triggering the first of many disputes between the German and Russian consultants on the project. The plans, where form follows function, called for large indoor spaces designed to let the maximum amount of natural light into the workplace. Arch-supported sections of the ceiling would curve upwards then fall diagonally along the high slanted banks or windows; this pattern would be repeated several times in the larger rooms, giving the roof its characteristic sawtooth-like appearance. Despite Beijing's northern location, the windows were all to face north because the light from that direction would cast fewer shadows.

The chosen location was a 640,000 square metres area in Dashanzi, then a low-lying patch of farmland northeast of Beijing. The complex was to occupy 500,000 square metres, 370,000 of which were allocated to living quarters. It was officially named Joint Factory 718, following the Chinese government's method of naming military factories starting with the number 7. Fully funded by the Chinese side, the initial budget was enormous for the times: 9 million or approximately 140 million at today's rates; actual costs were 147 million RMB.

Ground was broken in April 1954. Construction was marked by disagreements between the Chinese, Soviet and German experts, which led at one point to a six-month postponement of the project. The Germans' harshest critic was the Russian technology consultant in charge of Beijing's two Soviet-built electronics factories , who was also head consultant of the Radio Industrial Office of the Second Ministry of Machine Building Industry. The disputes generally revolved around the Germans' high but expensive quality standards for buildings and machines, which were called "over-engineering" by the Russians. Among such points of contention was the Germans' insistence, historical seismic data in hand, that the buildings be built to whistand earthquakes of magnitude 8 on the , whereas the Chinese and Russians wanted to settle for 7. Communications expert Wang Zheng, head of Communications Industry in the Chinese Ministry of National Defense and supporter the East German bid from the start, ruled in favor of the Germans for this particular factory.

At the height of the construction effort, more than 100 East German foreign experts worked on the project. The resources of as many as 22 of their factories supplied the construction; at the same time, supply delays were caused by the Soviet Red Army's tremendous drain on East Germany's industrial production. The equipment was transported directly through the Soviet Union via the Trans-Siberian railway, and a 15 km track of railroad between Beijing Railway Station and was built especially to service the factory. US-educated scientist Dr. Luo Peilin , formerly head of the preparatory group in 1951-1953, was Head Engineer of Joint Factory 718 during its construction phase. Dr. Luo, now retired in Beijing, is remembered by his former colleagues as a dedicated perfectionist whose commitment to the obstacle-strewn project was a major factor of its eventual success.


Joint Factory 718 began production in 1957, amid a grandiose opening ceremony and display of Communist brotherhood between China and East Germany, attended by high officials of both countries. The first director was Li Rui , who had been involved in the early negotiations in Berlin.

The factory quickly established a reputation for itself as one of the best in China. Through its several ''danwei'' or "work units", it offered considerable social benefits to its 10,000-20,000 workers, especially considering the relative poverty of the country during such periods as the Great Leap Forward. The factory boasted, among others:

* the best housing available to workers in Beijing, providing fully furnished rooms to whole families for less than 1/30 of the workers' income;
* diverse extracurricular activities such as social and sporting events, dancing, swimming, and training classes;
* its own athletics, soccer, basketball and volleyball teams for men and women, ranked among the best in inter-factory competitions;
* a brigade of German-made motorcycles, performing races and stunt demonstrations;
* an orchestra that played not only revolutionary hymns, but also German-influenced classical Western music;
* literary clubs and publications, and a library furnished with Chinese and foreign books;
* Jiuxianqiao hospital, featuring German equipment and offering the most advanced dental facilities in China.

The factory even had its own volunteer military reserves or ''jinweishi'' , which numbered hundreds and were equipped with large-scale weapons and anti-aircraft guns.

Workers' skills were honed by frequent personnel exchanges, internships and training in cooperation with East Germany. Different incentives kept motivation high, such as rewards systems and "model worker" distinctions. At the same time, political activities such as Maoism study workshops kept the workers in line with Communist Party of China doctrine. During the Cultural revolution, propaganda slogans for Mao Zedong Thought were painted on the ceiling arches in bright red characters .

Frequent VIP visits contributed to the festive atmosphere. Notable guests included Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, and Kim Il-Sung.

The Joint Factory produced a wide variety of military and civilian equipment. Civilian production included acoustic equipment for Beijing's Workers' Stadium and Great Hall of the People, as well as all the loudspeakers on Tiananmen Square and Chang'an Avenue. Military components were also exported to China's Communist allies, and helped establish North Korea's wireless electronics industry.

After 10 years of operation, Joint Factory 718 was split into more manageable components, such as sub-Factories 706, 707, 751, 761, 797 and 798. The first Head of sub-Factory 798 was Branch Party Secretary Fu Ke , who played a major role in recruiting skilled workers from southern China and among returned overseas Chinese.

However, the factory came under pressure during Deng Xiaoping's of the 1980s. Deprived of governmental support like many state-owned enterprises, it underwent a gradual decline and was eventually rendered obsolete. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, most sub-factories had ceased production, 60% of the workers had been , and the remains of the management were reconstituted as a real-estate operation called "Seven-Star Huadian Science and Technology Group", charged with overseeing the industrial park and finding tenants for the abandoned buildings.

Artistic rebirth

The Dashanzi factory complex was vacated at around the time when most of Beijing's contemporary artist community was looking for a new home. Avant-garde art being frowned upon by the government, the community had traditionally existed on the fringes of the city. From 1984 to 1993, they worked in run-down houses near the Old Summer Palace in northwestern Beijing, until their eviction. They had then moved to the eastern Tongxian County , more than an hour's drive from the city center.

Then in 1995, Beijing's , looking for cheap, ample workshop space away from downtown, set up in the now defunct Factory 706. The temporary move became permanent and in 2000 Sui Jianguo , Dean of the Department of Sculpture, located his own studio in the area. The cluttered sculpture workshops have always remained open for visitors to peek at the dozens of workers milling about.

In 2001, Robert Bernell moved his bookshop and publishing office into a former factory canteen; he was the first to move in. One of Timezone 8's early employees was fashion designer Xiao Li, who along her husband, performance artist Cang Xin, helped artists secure and rent spaces in the area.

Through word-of-mouth, artists and designers started trickling in, attracted to the vast cathedral-like spaces. Despite the lack of any conscious aesthetic in the Bauhaus-inspired style, which grounded architectural beauty in practical, industrial function, the swooping arcs and soaring chimneys had an uplifting effect on modern eyes, a sort of post-industrial chic. At the artists' requests, workers renovating the spaces preserved the prominent Maoist slogans on the arches, adding a touch of ironic " kitsch" to the place.

Later that year, Mr. Tabata Yukihito from Japan's set up inside a 400-m? division of Factory 798's main area; this was the first renovated space featuring the high arched ceilings that would become synonymous with the Art District. BTAP's 2002 opening exhibition "Beijing Afloat" , drew a crowd of over 1,000 people and marked the beginning of the popular infatuation with the area.

In 2002, designer artist Huang Rui and hutong photographer Xu Yong set up the next to BTAP. With its cavernous 1200-m? floor and multiple-arched ceilings at the center of Factory 798, it was and still is the symbolic center of the whole district. A glass-fronted café was set up in the former office section at the back of the 798 space, opening into a back alley now lined with studios and restaurants such as Huang's own At Café, and Cang Xin's #6 restaurant, the area's "canteen".

In 2003, Lu Jie set up the , an ongoing project for artistic re-interpretation of the historical Long March, inside the 25,000 Cultural Transmission Center . Around that time, Singapore-owned China Art Seasons opened for display for pan-Asian art, and was one of several new galleries setting up at that time.

Notable exhibitions

Several s of note took place in 2003. In March, Huang Rui and Shu Yang's "Transborder Language 2003" combined poetry and performance art. "Blue Sky Exposure" was held outdoors in southern Beijing and then relocated to the Art District. On April 13, despite widespread fear of public gatherings during SARS, the exhibitions "Reconstruction 798" and "Operation Ink Freedom" drew crowds of 5,000 and definitely confirmed the area's widespread appeal.

In July, with Beijing in full construction boom, Wang Wei's "Temporary Space" featured workers completely enclosing an area of the exhibition with a brick wall and then removing the bricks one by one. In September, "Left Hand - Right Hand" showcased Chinese and German sculptors at 798 Space and Daoyaolu Workshop A. Among the works was Sui Jianguo's enormous concrete sculpture "Mao's Right Hand", which is just what the name suggests, and an example of modern Chinese art's ironic reflections on history.

The first was held in September 18, 2003 at the Art District and featured 14 exhibitions. "Tui-Transfiguration" featured photographs by chronicler Rong Rong and his wife, Japan-born Inri . Their works notably featured their own bodies in various strange locales, and were generally well-received despite being criticized by some as typical of the self-centered nature of much art in the area.

The first , directed by the ever-present Huang Rui, was held from April 24 to May 23, 2004. This first edition, named ''Radiance and Resonance/Signals of Time'' , was beset by logistical problems arising from landowner Seven-Star Group's increasing irritation with the art community. As such, the festival became as much a public protest against the area's upcoming destruction that a showcase of art itself.

One of the most -famous displays at the Festival was performance artist He Yunchang having himself cemented shut in a wooden box with only two pipes for , and staying there for 24 hours before being chiseled out, prompting the proverbial "Is it art?" questionings. "Shock" exhibitions have become increasingly common in the Art District .


The district's popularity has exploded since the opening of BTAP and 798 Space in 2002, with scores of , lofts, publishing firms, design companies, high-end tailor shops, and cafés and fancy restaurants setting up. In 2003, around 30 artists and organizations had set up studios or offices in the area, with 200 more reportedly on the waiting list to move in.

Fashionable clubs also sprang up such as Zhou Ying's "Vibes", known for its nights. A former factory cafeteria became , owned by well-known Beijing socialite and writer Li Xuebing or "Bing Bing" , also owner of Sanlitun's Jam House. Notable performers at Yan included Morcheeba in March 2003.

In keeping with the area's "community spirit", most galleries and spaces in Dashanzi do not charge either exhibitors or visitors. Instead, they generally sustain themselves by hosting profitable fashion shows and corporate events; among others, Sony had a product launch gala at 798 space, and watchmaker presented a fashion show at Yan Club. Others include Christian Dior, Royal Dutch Shell and Toyota; supermodel Cindy Crawford also made an appearance. Even Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong Holdings held an event in the district, which some found unsettling given the real-estate industry's designs on the land it sits on.

As such, Dashanzi is now a center of Beijing's nascent "" community. Huang Rui and Xu Yong are good representatives of the type. And a local guru of sorts is artist/curator/architect Ai Weiwei , whose self-designed house in Caochangdi just outside the factory complex was a trendsetter. True to BoBo style, he is an icon of consumerism as much as counterculture, working with Herzog & de Meuron on the design of the Beijing National Stadium.

In the absence of any rent control, tenants' costs have escalated. In 2000-2001, rents were 0.8 RMB per square metre per day . They increased slightly to 30 RMB/m?/month in 2003, and then doubled to 60 RMB/m?/month in 2004. Total costs can be quite high considering the average 200-400 m? area of the spaces, and the overhead of and retrofitting the rooms to use modern appliances.

Another sign of creeping gentrification is the increasing number of luxury cars parked near the galleries; local artist Zhao Bandi purchased the first Alfa Romeo convertible in Beijing. Some of the resident artists and their patrons are quite rich compared to other occupants of the area, the remaining factory workers. Some of the workshops are still operational on a small scale, mostly doing car repair or industrial laundry.

Some local artists such as Zhang Zhaohui, a New-York trained art critic and curator, and architect Zhu Jun, a new Dashanzi resident, have criticized the Art District as being less about art and more about show. Says Zhang: "Few of the artists come to seriously practice art. Most of them just come for opportunities to exhibit and sell works or just have parties and gatherings." On the other hand, young artists like Zhang Yue find this atmosphere particularly condusive to establishing one's career. In the course of one summer, Dashanzi Art District's Platform China Contemporary Art Institute and Unlimited Art Gallery afforded this rising artist two well-received solo shows.

Possible Destruction

In the days of Joint Factory 718, Dashanzi was chosen for its peripheral position well outside the city center. The artists who later moved there were coming from the edges of the city as well. Today however, the area sits right on the strategic corridor between the and downtown Beijing along the , considered of vital importance to the 2008 Olympic games. In the context of China's current real estate , the district is highly likely to be destroyed in the near future; the western entrances of the complex are already flanked by the Jiuxian and Hongyuan luxury apartment towers. Current government projects call for the expansion of the neighbouring industrial park to turn all of Dashanzi into a high-tech development zone similar to Zhongguancun. Landowner Seven-Star Group thus hopes to re-employ some of the 10,000 laid-off workers it is still responsible for.

Influential members of the artist community are lobbying various government instances to persuade them to allow the old buildings to remain, as part of a cultural center which Beijing otherwise lacks and that can only grow organically. They point out that such communities are important if Beijing, and China, is to become a major source of creative design instead of mere manufacturing.

Part of the lobbying effort is resident sculptor Li Xiangqun, professor at the of Tsinghua University, who was elected deputy of the 12th National People's Congress in 2004. Li presented the municipal government with a formal bill in February, requesting suspension of the destruction plans and preservation of the buildings as part of an Olympic-caliber cultural center.

Professors from architecture schools such as Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts and the have proposed various development plans for the area that involve preserving the buildings, although those do not appear especially profitable financially.

Meanwhile, attempts have been made to appeal to the developers' sense of economics by pointing out similarities with New York's Greenwich Village and SoHo, where the high profitability of real estate is due partly to the presence of former post-industrial artists' dwellings. Those arguments have so far been ignored.

As of 2004, Seven-Star Group has frozen the rental of new spaces and prohibited all renewals. Tenants now resort to subdividing and subleasing their spaces, to which the Group has responded by attempting to forbid subleasing to cultural organizations or to foreigners, hoping to drive out the artists. Tenants, despite some of them having leases still valid for several years, have been given the ultimatum of December 31, 2005 to vacate the premises.

At the end of 2007 it was decided that the area will continue in its current format.

July 2008: The area is being refurbished and is thriving. The roads have been repaved, new galleries opened as well as a cafe culture emerging.

Book references

* Huang Rui , editor . . Hong Kong: / Thinking Hands . ISBN 988-97262-3-8.

* Zhu Yan, with contributions by Yin Jinan and Li Jiangshu . . Hong Kong: ISBN 988-97262-7-0.

Feng Boyi

Feng Boyi is an eminent independent art curator and critic in China. He has been assistant editor of the China Artists' Association newsletter ''Artist's Communication'' since 1988. He has also edited and published numerous catalogues and papers on art and established the , a major online forum for contemporary art in China.

Notable curated exhibits include:

* 2003, "Left Hand - Right Hand" showcased Chinese and German sculptors at and Daoyaolu Workshop A. Among the works was Sui Jianguo's enormous concrete sculpture "Mao's Right Hand", which is just what the name suggests, and an example of modern Chinese art's ironic reflections on history.

* 2002, "Beijing Afloat" was the opening exhibition of the inside a 400 m? division of Factory 798's main area. This was the first renovated space featuring the high arched ceilings that would become synonymous with Beijing's 798 Art Zone. The show drew a crowd of over 1,000 people and marked the beginning of the popular infatuation with the area.

* 2000, "," jointly organized with artist Ai Weiwei, was a notorious art exhibition which ran in opposition to the Shanghai Biennial. Its name was a loose and questionable translation of the exhibition's corresponding Chinese title: The Uncooperative Attitude.

Endless knot

The endless knot or eternal knot is a symbolic found in Tibet and Mongolia. The motif is used in Tibetan Buddhism, and may also be found in Chinese art as one of the .


The endless knot has been described as "an ancient symbol representing the interweaving of the Spiritual Path, the flowing of Time and Movement within That Which is Eternal. All existence, it says, is bound by time and change, yet ultimately rests serenely within the Divine and the Eternal." Various interpretations of the symbol are:

* The inter-twining of and .
* Interplay and interaction of the opposing forces in the world of manifestation, leading to their union, and ultimately to harmony in the universe.
* The mutual dependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs.
* The union of and .
* The inseparability of emptiness and dependent origination, the underlying reality of existence.
* Symbolic of knot symbolism in linking ancestors and omnipresence and the magical ritual and meta-process of binding
* Since the knot has no beginning or end it also symbolizes the infinite wisdom of the . See mystic knot.

Drawing an endless knot

Plot the ''A'', ''B'', ''C'', ''D'' of ''ABCD''. Plot ''E'', the midpoint of line segment ''AB''. Plot ''F'', the midpoint of line segment ''BC''. Plot ''G'', the midpoint of line segment ''CD''. Plot ''H'', the midpoint of line segment ''DA''.

Plot ''I'', the midpoint of segment ''AE''. Plot ''J'', the midpoint of ''EB''. Plot ''K'', the midpoint of ''BF''. Plot ''L'', the midpoint of ''FC''. Plot ''M'', the midpoint of ''CG''. Plot ''N'', the midpoint of ''GD''. Plot ''O'', the midpoint of ''DH''. Plot ''P'', the midpoint of ''HA''.

Draw line segment ''AI''. Draw line segment ''IN'' but with leaving a gap in its middle. Draw line segment ''NG''. Draw line segment ''GE'' but leaving a pair of gaps at 1/4 and 3/4 of the way between ''G'' and ''E''. Draw line segment ''EJ''. Draw line segment ''JM'' but leaving a gap in its middle. Draw line segment ''MC''. Draw line segment ''CL''. Draw line segment ''LO'' but leaving a pair of gaps at 1/4 and 3/4 of the way between ''L'' and ''O''. Draw line segment ''OH''. Draw line segment ''HF'' but leaving a gap in its middle. Draw line segment ''FK''. Draw line segment ''KP'' but leaving a pair of gaps at 1/4 and 3/4 of the way between ''K'' and ''P''. Draw line segment ''PA''.

Erase points ''D'' and ''B'', and the drawing is done.

Endless knots in other cultures

Endless knots come as /mythological symbols have developed independently in various cultures. A well-known example is the various Celtic knots.

The interlaced form of the unicursal hexagram of occultism is topologically equivalent to the Buddhist endless knot.

Eight Treasures

The Eight Treasures are popular symbols in Chinese art.

While technically they may be any subset of the much longer list of the Hundred Treasures, there is a combination that is most popular.

# the wish-granting pearl or "flaming pearl"
# the double lozenges
# the stone chime
# the pair of
# the double coins
# the gold or silver ingot
# coral
# wish-granting scepter

Eight Immortals

The Eight Immortals are a group of legendary '''' in Chinese mythology. Each Immortal's power can be transferred to a tool of power that can give life or destroy evil. Together, these eight tools are called "Covert Eight Immortals" . Most of them are said to have been born in Tang Dynasty or Song Dynasty. Not only are they revered by the Daoists, but they are a popular element in the secular Chinese culture. They live on .

The Immortals are:
* Immortal Woman He ,
* Royal Uncle Cao ,
* Iron-Crutch Li ,
* Lan Caihe,
* Lü Dongbin,
* ,
* Elder Zhang Guo , and
* Zhongli Quan.

For their names in Chinese characters and Wade-Giles, see the individual pages in the list above.

In literature before the 1970s, they were sometimes translated as the Eight Genie. First described in the Yuan Dynasty, they were probably named after the .

In art

The tradition of depicting humans who’ve become an immortal is an ancient practice in Chinese art, and when religious Taoism gained popularity, it quickly picked up this tradition with its own immortals. While cults dedicated to various Taoist immortals date back to the Han dynasty, the popular and well known Eight Immortals first appeared in the . The art of the Jin tombs of the 12th and 13th centuries depict a group of eight Taoist immortals in wall murals and sculptures. They officially became known as the Eight Immortals in the writings and works of art of the Taoist sect known as the Complete Realization . The most famous art depiction of the Eight Immortals from this period is a mural of them in the Eternal Joy Temple at Ruicheng.

The Eight Immortals are considered to be signs of prosperity and longevity, so they are popular themes in ancient art. They were frequent adornments on celadon vases. They were also common in sculptures owned by the nobility. Their most common appearance, however, was in paintings. Many silk paintings, wall murals, and wood block prints remain of the eight immortals. They were often depicted either together in one group, or alone to give more homage to that specific immortal.

An interesting feature of early Eight Immortal artwork is that they are often accompanied by jade hand maidens, commonly depicted servants of the higher ranked deities, or other images showing great spiritual power. This shows that early on the Eight Immortals quickly became eminent figures of the Taoist religion, and had great importance. We can see this importance only is heightened in the Ming dynasty and Qing dynasties. During these dynasties, the Eight Immortals are very frequently associated with other prominent spiritual deities in artwork. They are numerous paintings with them and the Three Stars together. Also, other deities of importance, such as the Queen Mother of the West, are commonly seen in the company of the Eight Immortals.

The artwork of the Eight Immortals isn’t limited to paintings or other visual arts. They are quite prominent in written works too. Authors and playwrights wrote numerous stories and plays on the Eight Immortals. One famous story that has been rewritten many times and turned into several plays is , which is the story of how Lǚ Dòngbīn met Zhongli Quan and began his path to immortality.

In literature

The Immortals are the subject of many artistic creations, like paintings and sculptures. Examples of writings about them include:

* ''The Yueyang Mansion'' by Ma Zhiyuan ,
* ''The Bamboo-leaved Boat'' by Fan Zi'an , and
* ''The Willow in the South of the City'' by Gu Zijing .
* The most significant of the writings is ''The Eight Immortals Depart and Travel to the East'' by Wu Yuantai in Ming Dynasty.
* There is another work in Ming, by an anonymous writer, called ''The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea'' . It is about the Immortals on their way to attend the Conference of the Magical Peach and encountered an ocean. Instead of going across by their clouds, Lü Dongbin suggested that together, they should use their powers to get across. Stemming from this, the Chinese proverb "The Eight Immortals cross the sea, each reveals its divine power" indicates the situation that everybody shows off their powers to achieve a common goal.


Established in the Song Dynasty, the Xi'an temple Eight Immortals Palace , formerly Eight Immortals Nunnery , where statues of the Immortals can be found in the Hall of Eight Immortals . In Mu-cha , Taipei County, Taiwan, there is a temple called South Palace , nicknamed Eight Immortal Temple .

Modern depictions

In modern China, the Eight Immortals are still a popular theme in artwork. Paintings, pottery, and statues of the Eight Immortals are still common in households across China, and are even gaining some popularity world wide.

Several movies about the Eight Immortals have been produced in China in recent years.

In Jackie Chan's movie "Drunken Master", there were eight "drunken" Kung Fu forms that were said to be originated from the Eight Immortals.

The Eight Immortals play an important part in the plot of the video game ''Fear Effect 2''.

In the X-Men comic book, the Eight Immortals appear to protect China along the Collective Man, when the mutant Xorn caused a massacre in one small village.

The Eight Immortals played a role in the animated show: Jackie Chan Adventures.

The Eight Immortals played an important role in the 2008 movie "The Forbidden Kingdom" starring "Jackie Chan" and "Jet Li"

Also in the book: "Cathy's Book" by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman

Further reading

* Lai, T. C., ''The Eight Immortals'' .

Eastern art history

Eastern art history is devoted to the arts of the Far East and includes a vast range of influences from various cultures and religions. The emphasis is on art history amongst many diverse cultures in . Developments in Eastern art historically parallel those in Western art, in general a few centuries earlier. African art, Islamic art, Indian art, Chinese art, and Japanese art each had significant influence on Western art, and, vice-versa.

Buddhist art

Buddhist art originated in the Indian subcontinent in the centuries following the life of the historical Gautama Buddha in the to 5th century BCE, before evolving through its contact with other cultures and its diffusion through the rest of Asia and the world. Buddhist art traveled with believers as the dharma spread, adapted, and evolved in each new host country. It developed to the north through Central Asia and into Eastern Asia to form the Northern branch of Buddhist art, and to the east as far as Southeast Asia to form the Southern branch of Buddhist art. In India, Buddhist art flourished and even influenced the development of art, until Buddhism nearly disappeared in India around the 10th century due in part to the vigorous expansion of Islam alongside Hinduism.

In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. Its symbolic nature can help one "to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises." The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as ''"a representation of the unconscious self,"'' and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.

Bhutanese art

Bhutanese art is similar to the art of Tibet. Both are based upon , with its pantheon of divine beings.

Bhutanese art is particularly rich in bronzes of different kinds that are collectively known by the name ''Kham-so'' even though they are made in Bhutan, because the technique of making them was originally imported from the eastern province of Tibet called Kham. Wall paintings and sculptures, in these regions, are formulated on the principal ageless ideals of Buddhist art forms. Even though their emphasis on detail is derived from Tibetan models, their origins can be discerned easily, despite the profusely embroidered garments and glittering ornaments with which these figures are lavishly covered. In the grotesque world of demons, the artists apparently had a greater freedom of action than when modeling images of divine beings.

Cambodian art

Cambodian art and the culture of Cambodia has had a rich and varied history dating back many centuries and has been heavily influenced by India. In turn, Cambodia greatly influenced Thailand, Laos and vice versa. Throughout Cambodia's long history, a major source of inspiration was from religion. Throughout nearly two millennium, a Cambodians developed a unique belief from the syncreticism of indigenous animistic beliefs and the Indian religions of Buddhism and Hinduism. Indian culture and civilization, including its language and arts reached mainland Southeast Asia around the 1st century A.D. Its is generally believed that seafaring merchants brought Indian customs and culture to ports along the gulf of Thailand and the Pacific while trading with China. The first state to benefit from this was Funan. At various times, Cambodia culture also absorbed elements from , , Lao, and cultures.

Visual arts of Cambodia

The history of Visual arts of Cambodia stretches back centuries to ancient crafts; Khmer art reached its peak during the Angkor period. Traditional Cambodian arts and crafts include textiles, non-textile weaving, silversmithing, stone carving, lacquerware, , wat murals, and kite-making. Beginning in the mid-20th century, a tradition of modern art began in Cambodia, though in the later 20th century both traditional and modern arts declined for several reasons, including the killing of artists by the Khmer Rouge. The country has experienced a recent artistic revival due to increased support from governments, NGOs, and foreign tourists.

Chinese art

Chinese art has varied throughout its , divided into periods by the ruling dynasties of China and changing technology. Different forms of art have been influenced by great philosophers, teachers, religious figures and even political leaders. Chinese art encompasses fine arts, folk arts and performance arts. Chinese art is art, whether modern or ancient, that originated in or is practiced in China or by Chinese artists or performers.

In the Song Dynasty, poetry was marked by a lyric poetry known as which expressed feelings of desire, often in an adopted persona. Also in the Song dynasty, paintings of more subtle expression of landscapes appeared, with blurred outlines and mountain contours which conveyed distance through an impressionistic treatment of natural phenomena. It was during this period that in painting, emphasis was placed on spiritual rather than emotional elements, as in the previous period. Kunqu, the oldest extant form of Chinese opera developed during the Song Dynasty in Kunshan, near present-day Shanghai. In the Yuan dynasty, painting by the Chinese painter Zhao Mengfu greatly influenced later Chinese landscape painting, and the Yuan dynasty opera became a variant of Chinese opera which continues today as Cantonese opera.

Indian art

Indian art can be classified into specific periods each reflecting certain religious, political and cultural developments. The earliest examples of are the petroglyphs such as found in Bhimbetka, some of them being older than 5500 BC. The production of such works continued for several millennia with later examples, from the 7th century being the carved pillars of Ellora, Maharashtra . Other examples are the frescoes of Ajanta and Ellora Caves.
Specific periods:
*Hinduism and Buddhism of the ancient period
*Islamic ascendancy
*The colonial period
*Independence and the period
*Modern and Postmodern art in India

One of the most popular art forms in India is called Rangoli. It is a form of sandpainting decoration that uses finely ground white powder and colours, and is used commonly outside homes in India.

he visual arts are tightly interrelated with the non-visual arts. According to Kapila Vatsyayan, "Classical Indian architecture, sculpture, painting, literature , music and dancing evolved their own rules conditioned by their respective media, but they shared with one another not only the underlying spiritual beliefs of the Indian religio-philosophic mind, but also the procedures by which the relationships of the symbol and the spiritual states were worked out in detail."

Insight into the unique qualities of Indian art is best achieved through an understanding of the philosophical thought, the broad cultural history, social, religious and political background of the artworks.

Indonesian art

Indonesian art and culture has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. Indonesia is central along ancient between the Far East and the Middle East, resulting in many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of , including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam, all strong in the major trading cities. The result is a complex cultural mixture very different from the original indigenous cultures.
Indonesia is not generally known for paintings, aside from the intricate and expressive Balinese paintings, which often express natural scenes and themes from the traditional dances.

Other exceptions include indigenous Kenyah paint designs based on, as commonly found among Austronesian cultures, endemic natural motifs such as ferns, trees, dogs, hornbills and human figures. These are still to be found decorating the walls of Kenyah Dayak longhouses in East Kalimantan's Apo Kayan region.

Calligraphy, mostly based on the Qur'an, is often used as decoration as Islam forbids naturalistic depictions. Some foreign painters have also settled in Indonesia. Modern Indonesian painters use a wide variety of styles and themes.

Indonesia has a long-he and Iron Ages, but the art-form particularly flourished from the 8th century to 10th century, both as stand-alone works of art, and also incorporated into temples.

Most notable are the hundreds of meters of relief sculpture at the temple of Borobodur in central Java. Approximately two miles of exquisite relief sculpture tell the story of the life of and illustrate his teachings. The temple was originally home to 504 statues of the seated Buddha. This site, as with others in central Java, show a clear Indian influence.

Japanese art

Japanese art and architecture is works of art produced in Japan from the beginnings of human habitation there, sometime in the 10th millennium BC, to the present. Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, ink painting on silk and paper, and a myriad of other types of works of art; from ancient times until the contemporary 21st century.

''Ukiyo'', meaning "floating world", refers to the impetuous young culture that bloomed in the urban centers of Edo , Osaka, and Kyoto that were a world unto themselves. It is an ironic allusion to the homophone term "Sorrowful World" , the earthly plane of death and rebirth from which Buddhists sought release.
The art form rose to great popularity in the metropolitan culture of Edo during the second half of the 17th century, originating with the single-color works of Hishikawa Moronobu in the 1670s. At first, only India ink was used, then some prints were manually colored with a brush, but in the 18th century Suzuki Harunobu developed the technique of polychrome printing to produce ''nishiki-e.''

is one of the oldest and most highly refined of the Japanese arts, encompassing a wide variety of genre and styles. As with the history of Japanese arts in general, the history Japanese painting is a long history of synthesis and competition between native Japanese aesthetics and adaptation of imported ideas.

The origins of painting in Japan date well back into . Simple stick figures and geometric designs can be found on Jōmon period pottery and Yayoi period ''dotaku'' bronze bells. Mural paintings with both geometric and figurative designs have been found in numerous tumulus from the Kofun period .

Ancient Japanese sculpture was mostly derived from the idol worship in Buddhism or animistic rites of Shinto deity. In particular, sculpture among all the arts came to be most firmly centered around Buddhism. Materials traditionally used were metal—especially bronze—and, more commonly, wood, often lacquered, , or brightly painted. By the end of the Tokugawa period, such traditional sculpture - except for miniaturized works - had largely disappeared because of the loss of patronage by Buddhist temples and the nobility.

Korean Art

Korean art is noted for its traditions in pottery, music, calligraphy, painting, sculpture, and other genres, often marked by the use of bold color, natural forms, precise shape and scale, and surface decoration.

While there are clear and distinguishing differences between three independent cultures, there are significant and historical similarities and interactions between the arts of Korea, China and Japan.

The study and appreciation of Korean art is still at a formative stage in the West. Because of Korea’s position between China and Japan, Korea was seen as a mere conduit of Chinese culture to Japan. However, recent scholars have begun to acknowledge Korea’s own unique art, culture and important role in not only transmitting Chinese culture but assimilating it and creating a unique culture of its own. ''An art given birth to and developed by a nation is its own art.''

Generally the history of Korean painting is dated to approximately 108 C.E., when it first appears as an independent form. Between that time and the paintings and frescoes that appear on the Goryeo dynasty tombs, there has been little research. Suffice to say that til the Joseon dynasty the primary influence was painting though done with Korean landscapes, facial features, Buddhist topics, and an emphasis on celestial observation in keeping with the rapid development of Korean astronomy.

Throughout the history of Korean painting, there has been a constant separation of monochromatic works of black brushwork on very often mulberry paper or silk; and the colourful folk art or ''min-hwa'', ritual arts, tomb paintings, and festival arts which had extensive use of colour.

This distinction was often class-based: scholars, particularly in Confucian art felt that one could see colour in monochromatic paintings within the gradations and felt that the actual use of colour coarsened the paintings, and restricted the imagination. Korean folk art, and painting of architectural frames was seen as brightening certain outside wood frames, and again within the tradition of Chinese architecture, and the early Buddhist influences of profuse rich thalo and primary colours inspired by .

Laotian art

Laotian art includes , , and .

Many beautiful Lao Buddhist sculptures are carved right into the Pak Ou caves. Near Pak Ou the ''Tham Ting'' and the ''Tham Theung'' are not too far from Luang Prabang, Laos. They are a magnificent group of caves that are only accessible by boat, about two hours upstream from the center of Luang Prabang, and have recently become more well known and frequented by tourists.The caves are noted for their impressive Buddhist and style sculptures carved into the cave walls, and hundreds of discarded Buddhist figures laid out over the floors and wall shelves. They were put there as their owners did not wish to destroy them, so a difficult journey is made to the caves to place their unwanted statue there.

Thai art

Thai art and was traditionally and primarily . Sculpture was almost exclusively of Buddha images, while painting was confined to illustration of books and decoration of buildings, primarily palaces and temples. Thai Buddha images from different periods have a number of distinctive styles. Contemporary Thai art often combines traditional Thai elements with techniques.

Tibetan art

Tibetan art refers to the art of Tibet and other present and former kingdoms . Tibetan art is first and foremost a form of sacred art, reflecting the over-riding influence of Tibetan Buddhism on these cultures. The Sand Mandala is a tradition which symbolises the transitory nature of things. As part of Buddhist canon, all things material are seen as transitory. A sand mandala is an example of this, being that once it has been built and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished, it is systematically .

Historian note that Chinese painting had a profound influence on Tibetan painting in general. Starting from the 14th and 15th century, Tibetan painting had incorporated many elements from the Chinese, and during the 18th century, Chinese painting had a deep and far-stretched impact on Tibetan visual art. According to Giuseppe Tucci, by the time of the Qing Dynasty, "a new Tibetan art was then developed, which in a certain sense was a provincial echo of the Chinese 18th century's smooth ornate preciosity."

Vietnamese art

Vietnamese art is from one of the oldest of such cultures in the Southeast Asia region. A rich artistic heritage that dates to prehistoric times and includes: silk painting, sculpture, pottery, ceramics, woodblock prints, architecture, music, dance and theatre.

is art practiced in Vietnam or by Vietnamese artists, from ancient times to post- art which was strongly influenced by , among other philosophies such as Taoism and Confucianism. The art of Champa and also played a smaller role later on.

The Chinese influence on Vietnamese art extends into , calligraphy, and traditional architecture. Currently, Vietnamese lacquer paintings have proven to be quite popular.

Vietnamese calligraphy

Calligraphy has had a long history in Vietnam, previously using Chinese characters along with Chu Nom. However, most modern Vietnamese calligraphy instead uses the Roman-character based Quoc Ngu, which has proven to be very popular.

In the past, with literacy in the old character-based writing systems of Vietnam being restricted to scholars and elites, calligraphy nevertheless still played an important part in Vietnamese life. On special occasions such as the , people would go to the village teacher or scholar to make them a calligraphy hanging . People who could not read or write also often commissioned scholars to write prayers which they would burn at temple shrines.

Eastern art gallery


In Chinese poetry, a duìlián or antithetical couplet is a pair of lines of poetry pasted on the sides of doors leading to people's homes. The two lines correspond in their metrical length and some properties of each , such as meaning and . The ideal for a duilian is to have few words but deep meaning. For this reason, they use one character per word, as in much Classical Chinese.


A Duilian is only considered as such if the following rules apply:
#Both lines must have exactly the same number of Chinese characters.
#The lexical category of each character must be the same as its corresponding character.
#The tones need to be in order. Usually, this means if one character is of the first or second tone, its corresponding character must not be of the first or second tone.
#The meaning of the two lines need to be related, with each pair of corresponding characters having related meanings too.


Originating during the Five Dynasties, flourishing during the and , duilian have a history of more than a thousand years.