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Tang Dynasty: Religion, Art & Poetry

Instructor: Dana Fernandez

Dana has taught pre-kindergarten and first grade. She has a master’s degree in English as a Second Language.

In this lesson, you will gain a basic understanding of art, religion, and poetry during the Tang Dynasty. It was during this dynasty that the Chinese culture began to truly expand these areas.

The Tang Dynasty

Have you ever looked up at the sky in awe at the explosively, beautiful art? You have the Chinese of the Tang Dynasty to thank for the fireworks we see lighting up the sky during celebrations. The Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) was known as the Golden Age for China largely because of Chinese advances in art, poetry and religion during this time period. Let's look into some of their major contributions in art, religion, and poetry.

Art During the Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty was a time when art flourished in China. It has been argued that this was largely because of the Silk Road. The constant flow of new and foreign people bought stylistic changes to the Chinese art form. For example, consider the fancy Chinaware many couples get for their engagement or wedding. During the Tang Dynasty, porcelain was improved upon to make the Chinaware we still use today. Ceramics was elevated to new heights with the birth of Chinese porcelain. Chinese porcelain was greatly wanted along the Silk Road because of its light-weight and elegant appeal. Chinese artists also created sancai, or a way to add color to the porcelain.

Additionally, artist began drawing people and landscapes using contrasting elements to show depth and dynamic. They would not always use paint, but the artists did show shading using ink. Many artists found themselves going to break taking views of water and mountains to paint and draw. They often used scroll paper to better capture the panoramic view. For example, Wang Wei was a famous artist that took part in this type of landscape art that is called shan shui. This style of drawing or painting is still relevant today.

The Spring Evening Banquet at the Peach and Pear Blossom Garden by Leng Mei
Shan shui painting. The picture is an example of a shan shui painting in 18th century China.

Poetry During the Tang Dynasty

Another form of art that began to grow in popularity is poetry. During this time, lüshi, took form. Lüshi is much like the standard poetry we learn in the American schools. It has rhythm and rhymes every two lines. However, it is structured to a specific number of lines and syllables. This was adapted in different ways as the Tang Dynasty progressed as did all art during this time.

One reason poetry became a huge part of the Tang Dynasty was because it was part of the Chinese civil service examination. A component of their test was to create a poem, and how well you wrote gave input to which job would best suit you. Wang Wei was also at the forefront of this rise in poetry following a more standard style of poetry. On the other end of the poetry spectrum, Li Bo tended to challenge his readers by creating poetry that was not the norm. He enjoyed writing poems that expressed escapes from the everyday life. Both poets were widely respected and admired during this time.

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