The dominating feature od Chinese life is a conservatism that has followed certain habits and traditions for 40 centuries. Altthough there was some culture in China five thousand years ago, we shall begin our study with the Chou Dynasty (1125-255 B.C.), during which time China reached its zenith of intellectual and artistic achievement. Confucius (552-479 B.C.) was almost a comtemporary of the Golden Age of Athens.
The Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 221) marked a great development in China and prepared the way for a new outburst of artistic life under the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which may be described as the golden age of Chinese art. There followed a sort of decadence, which was succeeded by a new revival under the Sung Dynasty (960-1280). During this period there was a turning back to ancient ideals and masters, just as the 15th-century masters of Europe turned back to classical masters. This period can be distinguished by fine landscales and light and graceful statues. Marco Polo tells of the wonders of China under the first emperors of the Mongol or Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368). The next dynasty, Ming, turned its eyes to the past but failed to achieve and real greatness. Since the coming
of the Manchu
Dynasty (1644-1911) the art of China has not been outstanding. In architecture China has just one style, which serves for all purposes from temple and palace to public building and private dwelling. The design is well known, being four-sided but not square, built in two sections with a steep overhanging roof with upturned corners, a raised ridge board with an elevated section at each end. The buildings in the Forbidden City, Peiping, are beutifully proportioned and are embelished with glaze tile, lacquers, and gilding. The work of the Ming and Manchu emperors, these buildings are typical of the finest Chinese architecture. Few buildings now standing are older than the Ming Dynasty.
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