Sui Dynasty Art
Characteristics of Sui Era Buddhist Arts and Culture.

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Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva
Stone Sculpture (581-618).
Cernuschi Museum, Paris.
For more statues, see:
Chinese Buddhist sculpture.

Sui Dynasty Art (589-618)
Types and Characteristics


Sui Culture
Sui Architecture
Buddhist Art
Later Chinese Dynasties

Additional Resources

- Neolithic Art in China (7500-2000 BCE)
- Shang Dynasty art (1600-1050 BCE)
- Zhou Dynasty art (1050-221 BCE)
- Qin Dynasty art (221-206 BCE)
- Han Dynasty art (206 BCE - 220 CE)

White-Glazed ancient pottery
of the Sui Dynasty (581-618)
A masterpiece of Asian art from
the early Middle Ages.

For more about the background
to Sui Dynasty culture, please see:
Chinese Art Timeline.

Sui Culture

The Sui Dynasty (pronounced sway), founded by Emperor Wen (personal name Yang Jian) (541-604), a former high official of the Bei (Northern) Zhou dynasty (557–581), unified China after a period of four centuries of upheaval and disunity during which North and South China had lived under separate dynasties. The Sui Empire was based at its capital in Daxing (present-day Xian), which later changed its name to Changan. Sui culture built upon the arts of the Six Dynasties Period (220-589), to pave the way for a cultural renaissance that attained its apogee during the following era of Tang Dynasty art (618–907). Emperor Yang Jian reestablished Confucianism while also fostering the new religion of Buddhism, which itself increased demand for various types of Chinese art and craftsmanship, including architecture, decorative fresco painting and ceramics. He also instituted widespread legal, political, and administrative improvements. The second Sui ruler, Emperor Yang (personal name Yang Guang) (569-618), completed the unification of southern and northern China and built a second capital at Luoyang.


Sui Architecture

Like the Qin Dynasty, with whom it is often compared - the Sui Dynasty lost no time in commemorating its rule with a series of massive building projects - projects, whose crippling costs led to crushing taxes on the people and eventual revolt. Construction of the capital city, Daxing, was begun in 583 under the great architect Yuwen Kai, and was followed by the building of an eastern capital at Luoyang, as well as the Grand Canal along with a network of waterways. The Great Wall of China was extended. Chinese painting and forms of decorative art - such as Chinese pottery (and Chinese porcelain) as well as lacquerware, as well as jade carving - benefited significantly from this architectural splurge, and Chinese painters in particular flocked to the Sui court in search of patronage.

Buddhist Art

Buddhism had gained a strong foothold in China by the time of the Sui, and Emperor Yang Jian converted to Buddhism to legitimize his authority over the country. One might say that the Buddhist religion acted as an overarching cultural force that helped to unify visual art in China during the short-lived Sui Dynasty, and to pave the way for its renaissance during the succeeding era of the Tang. Buddhism created a demand for several different types of art, notably sculpture: indeed, without Buddhism, Chinese sculpture would have remained a minor art. Buddhist stone sculpture became widespread, both in statue form and in relief sculpture of various kinds. Bronze sculpture was also used to represent both Buddha and Bodhisattvas, as was ivory carving. In general, the postures used were stereotypes derived from Indian origins. To compare the strength and popularity of Buddhist culture in Korea, please see: Korean Art (c.3,000 BCE onwards).

For more about the arts and crafts of other Asian cultures, see: Japanese Art as well as India, Painting & Sculpture.

Later Chinese Dynasties

Later periods of Chinese culture are typically divided as follows:

- Song Dynasty art (960-1279)
- Yuan Dynasty art (1271-1368)
- Ming Dynasty art (1368-1644)
- Qing Dynasty art (1644-1911)

• For more about Buddhist painting and sculpture in early medieval China, see: Homepage.

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