The ethereal beauty of China's traditional poetry has spread from the latest TV reality show -- "Chinese Poetry Conference" -- to artist entrance exams.
The photo shows one of Chinese art master Qi Baishi's paintings. [Photo / chinadaily.com.cn]
The China Academy of Art (CAA) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, recently required candidates applying for postgraduate education to create a painting of natural sceneries that were delineated in a poem completed in Tang Dynasty (618-907).
The attempt – different from the previous exams dominated by sketching and coloring – is considered a bold move that mirrors the country's ongoing endeavor to revive traditional culture.
Zhang Gumin, a teacher in charge of the Traditional Chinese Painting Department at the CAA, said that the exam underscores many points that can reveal the candidates' true abilities, such as understanding the meaning behind a poem, calligraphy and artistic cultivation and competence."
Hu Zhiyong, a junior student in the CAA, said "the exam was so flexible that even those who had been informed beforehand could hardly pass it."
The students in the test were asked to make a coordinated and meaningful painting by taking into account the elements consisting of crooked mountain paths, meandering creeks, lichens and petals in a poem. After the exam, many students complained about the sudden change.
However, the uneasiness of students has inspired training centers to develop classes on ancient Chinese poetry.
"It's a new lucrative business, as multiple students and parents have started consulting the issue of how to succeed on a painting test based on traditional Chinese poems," said a businessman from an entrance exam training center in Beijing.
Jin Shangyi, a prominent oil painter and the former president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), said "we have abandoned many times the value of traditional painting, which reflects the profound meaning of our culture."
Zhu Wanzhang, a member of the theoretical committee of China Artists Association, expects the change in the exam may usher in a rejuvenation of traditional Chinese painting.
But there are differing opinions.
Xi Yaoyi, an art critic, said schools have no need to carry on similar exams for painting and poetry and there should be choices between the old and the new.
"The last century did not merely witness the rise of traditional Chinese water painting masters, such as Qi Baishi and Huang Hongbin, but also modern artists, like Lin Fengmian and Jiang Zhaohe," Xi explained.