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Chinese paintings owe much of their unique appearance to the use of the Chinese ink brush and the Chinese paper (rice and silk). Additionally, there are four essential elements used in the creation of the Chinese painting; the brush, ink stick, paper, and ink stone. Collectively, these are known as the Four Treasures of the Study. The uses of these tools are a major difference between Western style paintings and Chinese paintings.

The second major difference between western style and Chinese paintings is the artistic pedagogy.

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Simply put, Chinese artists are taught to incorporate Chinese philosophy with their personality. They are also taught to express the mood and spirit of the subject.

Many believe that a painting conveys the knowledge and temperament of the artist. It is in this way that the painting can become something more than a simple painting.

An essential Chinese philosophy is the unity between humans, Heaven, and Earth. What the viewer is seeing in the artist’s attitude to the balance between Earth, Heaven, nature, and man. Many Chinese painters have a deep love and respect for nature and the world around them. This is also thematic in their culture and religious practices.

It is quite common for Chinese artists to use lines and strokes that are found in nature. Many of these same lines and strokes are found in Chinese calligraphy. Therefore, regardless of whether a painter is painting the human figure or landscapes, the same movements and rhythm are used that are used in Chinese calligraphy. Not coincidentally, the Chinese consider Chinese calligraphy the highest form of art.

Chinese painters spend many hours studying, contemplating, and gaining inspiration from nature. These subjects range from the powerful horse, the majestic mountains, the bubbling brook, or a fragile humming bird. Most often, the simplest subjects transcend the original painting and become famous Chinese paintings.

It is common that Chinese painters find it offensive to draw or paint the human figure by itself. Whether because of their personal beliefs of modesty, or because of their Taoist upbringings, human figures are almost always part of their surroundings. Their surroundings could be their world around them, heaven, or earth; they are all together in life and death. It is this Taoist belief that a simple painting should convey the subject and its balance within the world around it. A good Chinese painting captures mood and spirit of the subject.
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