"Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting" by Richard Barnhart

Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting Richard Barnhart, Yang Xin, Nie Chongzheng, James Cahill, Lang Shaojun, Hung Wu

The Culture & Civilization of China
Publication date:
11 Aug 2002
Yale University Press
416 pages: 305 x 229mm
25 b-w + 300 color illus.


From Neolithic painted petroglyphs, early paintings on silk, and landscapes by twelfth-century literati to the traditional handscrolls being produced today, Chinese painting has always had the power to enthrall. This magnificent book, written by a team of eminent international scholars, is the first to recount the history of Chinese painting over a span of some three thousand years. Drawing on museum collections, archives, and archaeological sites in China—including many resources never before available to Western scholars—as well as on collections in other countries, the authors present and analyze the very best examples of Chinese painting: more than 300 of them are reproduced here in color. Both accessible to the general reader and revelatory for the scholar, the book provides the most up-to-date and detailed history of China’s pictorial art available today.

In this book the authors rewrite the history of Chinese art wherever it is found—in caves, temples, or museum collections. They begin by grounding the Western reader in Chinese traditions and practices, showing in essence how to look at a Chinese painting. They then shed light on such topics as the development of classical and narrative painting, the origins of the literati tradition, the flowering of landscape painting, and the ways the traditions of Chinese painting have been carried into the present day. The book, which concludes with a glossary of techniques and terms and a list of artists by dynasty, is an essential resource for all lovers of, or newcomers to, Chinese painting.

Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting is the inaugural volume in a new series, The Culture & Civilization of China, a joint publishing venture of Yale University Press and the American Council of Learned Societies with the China International Publishing Group in Beijing. The undertaking will ultimately result in the publication of more than seventy-five volumes on the visual arts, classical literature, language, and philosophy, as well as several comprehensive reference volumes.

Richard M. Barnhart is John M. Schiff Professor of Art History at Yale University. James Cahill is professor emeritus of the history of art at the University of California, Berkeley. Wu Hung is Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at the University of Chicago. Yang Xin is deputy director and research fellow at the Palace Museum, Beijing. Nie Chongzheng is research fellow at the Palace Museum, Beijing. Lang Shaojun is director of the Fine Arts Research Laboratory at the Institute of Fine Arts, Chinese Academy of Arts, Beijing. James Peck is director of the U.S.-China Book Publication Project and executive editor of The Culture & Civilization of China series.

"An astonishing feat with much new to say to novice and specialist alike. . . . Broad surveys in the area have, of course, appeared many times before, but this one outclasses them on virtually every count."—Alan G. Artner, Chicago Tribune

"Exotic, beautiful, beguiling, and so luxuriously fat that you need four hands to hold it."—Financial Times & Weekend

"It is a daunting task to contain this vast subject within the covers of one volume, but the six authors of this Sino-American venture succeed in doing just that. They rewrite the history of Chinese painting wherever it is found—in caves, temples, or museum collections—from Neolithic times to the present day."—Caroline Blunden, The Art Newspaper

"A team of scholars has produced the essential guide to one of the world's greatest painting traditions, from ancient petroglyphs to handscrolls made in modern times."—Boston Sunday Globe

"A comprehensive history and reference that not only presents the best of Chinese painting but also explains its conventions and traditions. It includes a glossary of terms and a list of major painters by dynasty. In short, it's the best starting point for anyone who wants to learn about Chinese art."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"This is an extraordinary book and, given the West's limited acquaintance with the art it contains, a vitally necessary one."—Wan-Go Weng, Wall Street Journal

"One of the most complete and best-illustrated works on the topic of Chinese pictorial art available to both general readers and scholars."—Library Journal

"[A] magnificent book. . . . Accessible to the general reader and revelatory for the scholar, it provides the most up-to-date and detailed history of China's pictorial art available today."—Apollo

Winner of the 1997 Hawkins Award from the Arts Category given by the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers

"This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date single volume account of Chinese painting from prehistoric times to the present. For some time to come, it will be an indispensable work for students and the general reader who wishes to gain an in-depth knowledge of Chinese painting. Not least among the merits of the book are the numerous illustrations and discussions of important paintings in Chinese museums hitherto little known outside China. This book, which is the first in the Culture and Civilization of China series, augurs well for the success of this significant and far reaching collaborative effort between scholars in and outside China. It is indeed a welcome development."—James Watt