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Chinese Art Dictionary

Here we are starting a little dictionary showing Simplified and Traditional Chinese characters (where different) Pinyin and English.

Key words

畫 / 画 Huà painting
法 Fǎ method/technique
詩 / 诗 poetry

書法 / 书法 Shūfǎ Calligraphy

正體字/正体字 Zhèngtǐzì Traditional script or 繁體字/繁体字 Fántĭzì “complicated” characters

篆書 zhuànshū Seal Script
隸書 / 隶书 lìshū Clerical Script
行書 / 行书 xíngshū semi-cursive or running script
楷書 / 楷书 kǎishū regular script
简化字 jiǎnhuàzì or 简体字 jiǎntǐzì – Simplified characters
草書 / 草书  cǎoshū “grass” or quick/rough cursive script



米紙/米纸 mǐzhǐ  Rice paper: misleading generic name since the high quality paper uses tree bark as the primary ingredient.
宣紙 / 宣紙 xuānzhǐ Xuan paper, sometimes written in English as “Shuen” paper main ingredient is Qing tan bark
青檀 / 青檀 Qīng tán botanical name Pteroceltis tatarinowii also known as Wingceltis or blue sandalwood in English, and secondary ingredient
稻草 Dàocǎo rice straw
龙须草 / 龍鬚草 “Dragon beard grass” Eulaliopsis binata also known as Chinese alpine rush used for some sized papers
In other areas such as Wenzhou and Japan paper is made using paper mulberry and in Sichuan bamboo.

  • 生宣 shēng xuān “Raw” Xuan – unsized / unprocessed paper
  • 熟宣 shú xuān, has 明矾 Míngfán Potassium alum worked into it during production, which results in a stiffer texture, a reduced ability to absorb water, and less resistance to shear stress
  • 半熟宣 bàn shú xuān “half-cooked” semi-sized paper

毛筆/毛笔 máo bǐ  Ink brush
宣筆/宣笔  Xuān bǐ Xuan brush

徽墨 Huīmò – ink from the historical 徽州 Huīzhōu region, one half of what is now安徽 ĀnHuī province, near 黄山 Huangshan (Yellow Mountain).
松烟 Song Yan matt black ink from pine soot
油烟墨 Youyan Mo black ink from oil soot

歙砚 Shè yàn inkstone from Shexian, Huizhou in Anhui province

Painting styles

水墨 Shuǐmò / in Japanese sumi-e (墨絵) or suibokuga (水墨画), in Korean sumukhwa (수묵화), and in Vietnamese tranh thủy mặc (幀水墨). In English known as ink wash painting or Chinese brush painting

  • 山水 shān shuǐ “Mountain water” Chinese landscape painting, and related style of poetry
  • 花鸟画  花鳥畫 “Bird and flower painting”
  • 工筆 / 工笔  Gōngbǐ – Gongbi detail painting


寫意 / 写意 literally “draw meaning” also known as “enjoyable style” is a freehand impressionistic style able to create an impression from few strokes, the opposite of GongBi detail painting.
沒骨 / 没骨 Mògǔ “boneless” painting (without outlines)
白描 Baimiao painting directly in outline

渲染; Xuàn-Rǎn wash painting
点染; Diǎn-Rǎn dotting
填染; Tián-Rǎn filling colours
破墨 Pòmò splashing ink

Painting subjects

四君子 Sìjūnzǐ “Four gentlemen” traditional subjects for painting

蘭花 / 兰花 lánhuā Orchid
竹子 zhúzi Bamboo
菊花 júhuā Chrysanthemum
梅花 méihuā Plum Blossom



岁寒三友 suìhán sānyǒu wintertime three friends

松 sōng pine,
竹 zhú bamboo
梅 méi plum blossom


Famous painters


徐悲鴻 Xu Beihong – Galloping Horse
齊白石/齐白石 Qi Baishi
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4 thoughts on “Chinese Art Dictionary

  1. I have soooo enjoyed chatting with Yan this evening (morning for Yan) . Yan is very interesting and knowledgeable! Yan…..I just read your Bio at the top of our chat……what an accomplished one you are…..most greatfull for your assistance, I have learned a lot from you. ….thank you…12sky12

    1. Thank you dear 12sky12! Enjoyed very much chatting with you too! 🙂

  2. Hi i have a paint from china
    Purchased in Shangai 1980 the artist name was a girl the name Orchid Painting title is Wind un May

    1. Thanks dear santiagodianan896! 🙂 If you need help with this painting, please post your question with some photos of the painting in the art forum, which will allow more people to see your question and help you with it!

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