Asian Art

Asian Art: China, India, Japan, SE Asia


The huge Asian continent has given birth to numerous types of art that predate anything seen in the West. Ancient pottery, for example, first appeared in China, as did large scale bronze sculpture, sericulture, as well as jade carving and lacquer ware, and also calligraphy. In other fields - such as terracotta sculpture, for instance - Chinese ingenuity and creativity is unmatched, while in the arts of painting and metalwork the contribution of Chinese artists has been outstanding. The gigantism of Chinese statues is also well known. Chinese culture has had a major impact on the arts and crafts of other East Asian countries like Korea and Japan, although Japanese artists and craftsmen have also achieved worldwide renown in disciplines as diverse as woodcuts, paper-folding, ceramic art, origami, ink-and-wash painting and wood-carving.

Art on the Indian subcontinent - distinguished above all by its exceptional longevity - has developed more independently of China, although it was strongly influenced by Greek sculpture during the era of Hellenistic art, and latterly by the Islamic art of the Persian Mughal Empire. On the mainland, south-east Asian culture is exemplified by Khmer temple architecture, as well as Buddhist sculpture, batik textiles and certain types of metallurgy, while on the archipelagos of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it shares many characteristics with the Oceanic art of the South Pacific. Unfortunately, with the exception of certain types of stone and metalwork, most art of south-east Asia has - like much of the tribal art of Africa - disintegrated due to the effects of the climate. However, following the amazing find of cave painting in the Maros-Pangkep caves near Maros, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, experts believe there is a great deal more prehistoric art there, waiting to be discovered.


For a chronological guide to the evolution of arts and crafts of Asia, please see: Chinese Art Timeline (18,000 BCE - present). To see how they fit into the evolution of art in general, see: History of Art Timeline (from 800 BCE). For a detailed look at the dates of Paleolithic culture around the world, please see: Prehistoric Art Timeline (2.5 Million - 500 BCE). For the evolution of pots, please see: Pottery Timeline (c.26,000 BCE - 1900)

Courtesy of Encyclopedia of Art