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Selected Paintings from the Shanghai Museum

The Shanghai Museum has over 120,000 items of Chinese art forms from painting to coinage, from sculpture to furniture. In addition to its research and archival missions, it has a mission to introduce traditional Chinese art and culture to visitors to Shanghai as well as the residents of Shanghai. Shanghai is a leading tourist destination both from within China and for visitors from around the world. The new building for the Shanghai Museum was finished in 1996. It is a fitting setting for a great collection.

Click on any picture to see an enlargement. Use the arrows above the pictures to navigate or click on a picture to progress.

Some pictures may be zoomed to see great detail. In some cases they are three or four pictures melded.

Tang Dynasty


During the early years of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) Buddhism experienced a resurgence brought about in part by the expansive travel along the Silk Road, exposure to the cultures of Persia and India, and by more ready access to writings, literature and art. The monk Xuanzang traveled along the Silk Road to India (629-645) returning to the capital, Chang'an, with copies of the Buddhist sutras. In 657 Wang Xuance was sent on one of several diplomatic missions to India, concluding a major political and trade agreement in 663.

It was common during the Tang, as during other periods of history, for the wealthy to commission works of art ranging from small paintings to monumental works as can be found in the Magao Grottoes at Dunhuang. This patronage helped to support and expand one of the greatest periods of Chinese art, literature, poetry, and thought.

During the later years of the Tang, Buddhism was actively suppressed, being seen as a threat to the power of the government. Confucianism was supported as the guiding principle of daily and official life.

Song Dynasty

Flowers and insects
The human figure

During the Song Dynasty (Northern Song 960-1127, Southern Song 1127-1279) painting expanded under a society with renewed interest in the intellectual and artistic sides of culture. The emperors supported the Imperial Art Academy. During the Northern Song, academy paintings were extremely realistic. They were painted with great detail and followed strict guidelines. Artists outside of the Academy developed what is called the literati style with greater expression and free-flowing lines. During the Southern Song, the Imperial Art Academy moved toward a simpler style with bold strokes.

Folk paintings of everyday life became popular and created a genre called "Jie Hua." These scrolls showed a street, market, village, or harbor scene teeming with life and motion. Animals were also popular including the traditional horses and birds, but also fish, buffalo, dragons and insects. Zen painting developed outside the Academy. Bamboo was a favorite subject of the Zen painting which emphasized simple brush strokes. Emperor Zhao Ji (1082-1135) suggested that paintings should include poetry and calligraphy and the idea became integrated into Chinese painting throughout succeeding generations.

Ming Dynasty

Traditional farewell

Literati at tea
Harvesting with detail at right
Beneath a willow
Filtering wine
Women at leisure
Details of above right

Qing Dynasty

Man and nature
Man in a Bamboo Hat
Album leaves by Wu Changshuo
Album Leaves by Ni Tian

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(c) Marilyn Shea, 2006, 2007, 2008