During imperial times in China, painting and calligraphy were viewed as the most noble of arts. Chinese paintings were mostly produced by those who devoted their time to perfecting the techniques essential for great brushwork. Calligraphy painting was also highly esteemed and thought to be the purest form of painting. In ancient times, most Oriental paintings were made on silk, but after the invention of paper in the first century AD, silk was slowly replaced.
As with calligraphy, Chinese paintings were often produced on scrolls and made to hang on walls. These scrolls were greatly valued and a form of scroll painting still exists today. Chinese painters also mounted their paints on Chinese wall fans, which were hung on walls as well. Another form of Oriental painting took place on hand held fans.
The traditional technique of Chinese paintings was to dip a brush in black or colored ink (no oils were used); silk and paper were the most popular materials for the Chinese artist. From the start of the Tang dynasty, the primary subject of the paintings of China was the landscape, also known as shanshui, which means mountain-water painting. The Chinese artists strived not to reproduce an exact replica of the landscape, but rather to evoke an emotion or feeling that represented the balance of nature.
Asian paintings of this era were usually void of much detail and looked similar in appearance. But later on, in the Song dynasty, Chinese landscape paintings of a more subtle variety manifested. Distances in the paintings were blurred, mountain contours faded into the mist and there was an overall impressionistic expression given the other natural props. Today, Chinese painters experiment with many different styles, but the traditional Chinese painting will always be an art form in high demand.