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The roots of Chinese painting can be traced back to the painted pottery of the Neolithic Age, some 6,000 years ago. Two paintings done in the state of Chu during the Warring States Period, the "Dragon and hoenix" and "Taming a Dragon" unearthed from a tomb near modern-day Changsha are the earliest paintings yet found in China. The Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties and Song were a flourishing period for traditional Chinese painting. Travelling in Spring by Zhan Ziqian of the Sui Dynasty is sometimes considered a gem of Chinese landscape painting. The Tang Dynasty Wu Daozi, known as the "Sage Painter," produced works that were treasured by collectors through the ages. A 24.8 cm. wide 258 cm. long silk scroll painted by Zhang Zeduan during the Song Dynasty, entitled Riverside Scenes at the Qingming Festival, vividly depicts the bustling everyday life in the Northern Song capital Bianliang (present-day Kaifeng) in extensive detail. The beauty and wealth of information contained in the picture still dazzles the eye today. Great progress was made in the use of ink-wash during the Yuan Dynasty. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, many outstanding painters emerged, such as Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming, Tang Yin(Bohu) and Qiu Ying of the Ming, and Zhu Da (Badashanren), Shi Tao, Zheng Xie (Banqiao) and Li Shan of the Qing.

Traditional Chinese paintings, known as "guohua" in China, are painted with ink and/or colors on paper or silk. Chinese paintings are generally classified into two styles: Xieyi (freehand strokes) and gongbi ("skilled brush"). Xieyi is characterized by careful control of ink tone, unrestrained brushwork, and no unessential brush strokes. The essence of landscapes, figures and other subjects are rendered with a minimum of expressive ink. In contrast, the brushwork in gongbi paintings is fine and visually complex. Precision is produced through close attention to detail; the hair on the head or the feathers on a bird's wing are neatly and carefully executed. The contemporary painter Zhang Daqian is famous for his skill in xieyi. Qi Baishi, another famous painter, sometimes combined the two contrasting techniques of xieyi and gongbi in one painting, creating, some would say, a new style. Other well-known painters of the modern era include Xu Beihong, Pan Tianshou, Huang Binhong, Li Kuchan, Li Keran, Fu Baoshi, Liu Haisu, Ye Qianyu and Guan Shanyue.

China has also made great progress in Western styles of paintings, such as oil painting, graphic art and water colors. Some fine arts colleges and schools have courses in Western painting styles. Many Chinese painters have created art works that combine traditional Chinese painting techniques with those of the West, thus bringing new brilliance to the world of Chinese art.

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