Chinese Folk Arts Characteristics
Chinese folk art is a visual art created by ordinary people to meet ordinary social needs.
The definition of folk art is relative to the definition of the art of imperial palace, the art of aristocrats, and the art of scholars and of the literati, or professional artists. Firstly it is a communal art created by millions in the working class, not the work of a few career artists. It is the art of the laborers, not the professionals; it is amateur, not specialized. Secondly, its social function makes it an art of' necessity, used in everyday life, production, rites and ceremonies, and beliefs and taboos. It was not intended as a commercial commodity, nor to serve political needs.
Looking back on history to the age of primitive society, communal art was created by the Chinese people alongside the creation of tools, shelter and other basic appliances necessary in daily life. The emergence of social classes in society separated the art of the private career artist from folk art, thus forming two major art systems and two cultural heritages in China. The former was the communal art of the people and first came into being in prehistoric time; the latter was the art created by individual career artists and professionals. The parallel growth and mutual influences of these two types of art have been key in driving forward the mainstream of Chinese national art.
In terms of the conservation of national culture, the life of folk art is relatively stable. It represents the ideology of the community; the emotional and psychological characteristics of a nation throughout major periods in history. It is coexistent with national culture; it will not disappear as long as the community exists. Traditional folk art will, however, continue to grow and expand with the passage of time. Cross-cultural exchange and development will continually inject new life into folk art by bringing fresh materials and ideas. Its core, however--its cultural and philosophical origin, its Chinese cultural genes--will remain unchanged.
1. It is the art of the people and by the people. The creators are the vast majority of ordinary people as a group.
In sum, folk art is a unique sector among Chinese national art that enjoys the most popularity and with the richest resource of historical culture. It is directly embedded in people's every day life and best characterized by the geographical region it represents. It is a long-standing, signature art form of Chinese nation with over 8000 years of history and cultural progress going all the way back to primitive society. From the worship of nature, totem and ancestor; to the urban residence culture of modern capitalist commodity economy; the cultural identity of each historical period is recognizable in single piece of art work in some cases.It is truly a living fossil and a museum of national historical culture.
It is also necessary to address some misinterpretations in defining the concept of Chinese folk art:
Firstly, the notion to characterize Chinese folk art as "willful creations." Willfulness can be found in Chinese paintings, art work and art style of career artists or professionals. It is not a definition of folk art. On the other hand, there is a variety of categories and diverse art styles irt folk art. They are not all willful creations.
Secondly, "change of appearance" is the basic feature. I disagree. Change of appearance is not an exclusive technique employed in Chinese folk art. It is used by career artists too. In modern art, the style of changing appearance attempts to lead the trend of its time. The issue is not the appearance, or the change; it is to show what and how to change. The change of appearance in Chinese folk art is determined by the original Chinese philosophical comprehension, art system andits aesthetic view, apart from the art of Chinese professionals, and intrinsically different from tile fashionable trend in modern western art.
Thirdly, learning from folk art, some professional artist created some art works with folk art style. They tend to characterize the work as folk art and label themselves as folk artists. It is actually a mis-conception that overlooked the fact
Fourthly, folk art differentiates from folk arts and crafts. The arts and crafts is a sector of folk art involving intensive craftsmanship, some are even consummate products. Folk art may not all have the same value or the craftsmanship as arts and crafts. They are two parts of the same category.
Lastly, folk art and folk custom art. Folk custom is the carrier of folk art.
We speak of folk art from the angle of art; whereas folk custom art is in the view of the custom.