Chinese Art vs Western Art – What’s the Difference?


Chinese and Western art cultures have produced some of the greatest works of art in human history. Both the painting forms have developed over centuries and evolved with some technical as well as cultural dissimilarities.

Western paintings emerged with the influence of Christianity and brought the philosophy that art is the mirror of the nature of God. These technically fluent artworks focused a lot on the accuracy of light and other technical parameters.

Chinese paintings, on the other hand, were primarily intended to present the landscapes and natural scenery of their magnificent country. They were highly inspired by the religious philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism and concentrated primarily on finding nature and eternity in art.

Today, we will discuss the foremost differences between Chinese and Western paintings.

Philosophical and Thematic Differences


Philosophy and the history of the region play a tremendous role in the evolution of both art forms.

Chinese artists portrayed beautiful interpretations of nature in their paintings and were deeply influenced by the Taoist school of philosophy. This way, they achieved harmony with nature and attempted to capture the true essence of nature. The effects of Buddhism and Confucianism are also apparent in the realm of Chinese paintings.

Western painters focussed more on shapes, colors, lights, and shadows to describe a scene and relied more on the depiction of an object and its form. This art form was also influenced by Christianity and its ideas.

Expressive and Representational Differences

If you observe Chinese paintings, you will find a depiction of nature with some unique imaginative expressions. Western paintings, on the other hand, focus more on representing something as it is with as much accuracy as possible.

Technical Differences

Methods of Painting

Chinese artists used to dip their brushes in pigments and paint over paper or silk. Then, they would hang their work or scroll it (also known as scroll paintings). Their paintings were also used on walls or porcelain. These ideas of scroll paintings were unknown to Western artists for centuries.

Stroke Techniques

If you follow Chinese and Western art, you will find a huge difference in their stroking styles as well. Chinese artists use simple and minimal brushstrokes to portray their characters as they are experiencing them at the time of painting.

European artists, on the contrary, make more technical brushstrokes and modify the objects and their surfaces according to the light source in the picture. That’s why we find a greater sense of realism in Western art and observe objects closer to reality.

Leaving the White Space

In Chinese paintings, especially landscapes, you will find a lot of unpainted areas as compared to European paintings. For Chinese painters, white space allows the painting to breathe and also encourages the audience to interpret their own meaning from the blank spaces.


In Chinese paintings, you will find a number of symbols such as people, mountains, water, clouds, trees, and rocks as they used to depend on the power of suggestion for their scenes. They used to express everything using such signs in their paintings, for instance, the moon implied nightfall or an umbrella meant rain, and so on.

Final Words

In the later centuries, both these art forms witnessed enormous changes and developed as important styles in the artistic culture. Cultural exchanges between the two regions also led to the transmission of artistic features of the paintings and paved the way for the modern Western and Chinese art forms.

If you want to know more about both types of art forms, you can follow art collector John Dodelande. His active work and collections will let you know the grandeurs of both forms of paintings and introduce you to the new world of art.

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