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Arts & Crafts

China has a wide variety of arts and crafts. They can be classified into special and folk types. Painting and calligraphy are unique in the world. Famous special arts and crafts include ivory carving, jade carving, stone carving, carved lacquer ware and cloisonne.

Chinese folk arts have a strong national style and local flavor. Chinese folk arts fall into the categories of painting, cutting, bundling, braiding, knitting, embroidering, carving, and molding.


Chinese Traditional Painting

The traditional Chinese painting is done on rice paper (or silk) with the Chinese brush, Chinese ink and mineral and vegetable pigments. It is divided into two categories in technique: free hand brushwork (xie yi) and detailed brushwork (gong bi) . Free hand is characterized by simple and bold strokes to represent the exaggerated likenesses of the objects, while detailed brushwork uses fine and detail brushwork. It can also be divided into three categories based on the objects it depicts: landscape, figure and birds-and-flower. Chinese traditional painting absorbs the best of many forms of art, a piece of work usually integrates poetry, calligraphy, painting and seal engraving. Chinese painters usually combine poetry and philosophy together. Hence there is an expression "painting in poetry and poetry in painting."

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Peasant Painting

Peasant paintings are done by peasants, integrating the folk arts of printing and dyeing, embroidery, paper cutting, wood carving, and cook stove painting. They depict the peasant's colorful customs and daily life. There are several major peasant painting centers in China, such as Jinshan, Huxian and Pixian. Jinshan peasant painting is noted for its vibrant colors and unique designs.

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Chinese brush calligraphy is a unique art. It's done by brush with ink on the rice paper. The tools are the brush, ink, paper, and ink stone, which are referred to as the "four treasures of the study".

Chinese characters are formed by strokes. By controlling the concentration of ink, the thickness and absorption of the paper, and the flexibility of the brush, the artist is free to produce various styles and forms. Calligraphy is also a mental exercise that coordinates the mind, the breath and the body to choose the best style in expressing the content. It is a relaxing yet highly disciplined exercise for one's physical and spiritual well being.

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China was the first producer of silk in the world. Silk and silk fabric emerged in China at least 5,500 years ago. The famous Silk Road to the Middle East and Europe started from 138 BC. Embroidery was used to give the cloth its delicate, often brilliant patterns. The four renowned embroideries of China are Su embroidery (Jiangsu province), Yue embroidery (Guangdong province), Xiang embroidery (Hunan province) and Shu embroidery (Sichuan province).

Embroidery needs the artist to be very patient. Take the famous Su embroidery artwork double faced "Cat" for example. The artist splits the hair thin colored silk thread into half, quarter, 1/12 or even 1/48 of its original thickness, the thousands of ends and joints are concealed in the process of embroidery. The most difficult part of the artwork is the eyes of the cat. More than 20 colors are used to give the eyes luster and life.

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Braiding, a popular folk art, includes various straw or thread braided articles. The products include straw slippers, straw baskets and bags, Chinese macrame, cool pillows, cushions, fragrant bags, and shoe-pads, etc.

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imageChina is the home of chinaware. Famous porcelain-making centers are Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province, Liling in Hunan Province, Tangshan and Handan in Hebei Province, and Zibo in Shandong Province.

During the Han Dynasty, celadon and black porcelain were mainly produced. Celadon is a type of grayish-green glaze, which is like the color of jade. In the late Tang Dynasty, pure white porcelain were produced at Xing Kiln in Hubei province. Its porcelain wares give out sounds like a musical instrument when being tapped . The porcelain wares of the Song Dynasty are classic porcelain arts in the entire world. Many famous kilns were found during the Song Dynasty. Famous kilns were Ru Kiln, Jun Kiln, Guan Kiln, Ge Kiln and the Ding Kiln.

Creamy porcelain wares were produced at Ru Kiln. Ru's wares are rare and the most famous of them. The red of the rosy porcelain wares produced at Jun Kiln are like the brilliant sunset glow. Ge Kiln specialized in producing artificial crackle porcelain wares.

Blue and white porcelain started from the Tang dynasty and enjoyed great popularity since the Ming dynasty. The kilns in Jingdezhen were the most famous.

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imageThe history of pottery in China can be traced back to 8000 years ago. Red earthenware, white pottery, black pottery, terra-cotta, tri-colored pottery and purple clay pottery appeared in chronological order.

Yixing teapots made from purple clay are famous. It can keep the fragrance of tea. Black pottery, tri-colored pottery and terra-cotta are also popular.

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imageCloisonne ("Jing Tai Lan" in Chinese), a traditional enamelware, originated in Beijing, and has a history of more than 500 years. It prevailed during the reign of Jingtai (1450-1456 A.D.) of the Ming Dynasty and was named "Jing Tai Lan" because the dominant color of the enamel was then blue ("lan" in Chinese). Cloisonne is noted for its brilliant colors and splendid designs. The making of Cloisonne involves quite elaborate and complicated processes: base-hammering, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel firing, polishing and gilding. It uses the red copper as the body of cloisonne, then adheres copper strips onto the copper body (1/16 inch in diameter) according to the design, and then fills the enamels in the design. After that is the repeat enamel firing and polishing and gilding.

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Kite making is a traditional Chinese folk handicraft. Kites made in Tianjin, Beijing and Weifang are the best. Wei Yuantai (nickname Kite Wei) is the most famous craftsman in Tianjin. Fei Baolin is the best kite maker in Beijing. Each year, Weifang International Kite Festival is held in April in Shandong province.

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Paper - Cuttings

Paper-cutting is another popular folk art in China. Tools including paper, scissors and engraving knife. Paper-cuttings can be used as ornaments on doors, windows, walls, mirrors, lamps and lanterns. In Chinese New Year, people usually put paper-cuttings on the entrance gates for good luck, and on windows for decoration.

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Chinese Lacquer

Lacquer is a natural substance obtained from the lacquer tree which has its home in China. Chinese lacquer has a long history dating back as early as the New Stone Age. Chinese lacquer includes lacquer painting, lacquer ware and lacquer furniture. Lacquer is resistant to water, heat, acid or alkaline corrosion, and its color and luster are highly durable, adding beauty to its practical use. Beijing, Fuzhou and Yangzhou are the cities leading in the production of Chinese lacquer ware. Fuzhou is well known for the "bodiless lacquer ware", it is solid lacquer without any wooden base.

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