Art Quiz: The Answer is Scroll Painting

Scroll painting is an art form practiced primarily in East Asia. There are two distinct types:

  • Hand scroll — which unrolls horizontally.
  • Hanging scroll — which unrolls vertically.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Chinese landscape scroll is considered that culture’s greatest contribution to the history of painting. The Japanese “narrative” scroll helped to develop the storytelling aspect of visual art.

Shown below is an example of a Chinese landscape scroll.  Paintings such as this were not intended to portray a specific landscape. The intent was to capture the spirit of the natural world, to evoke a feeling rather than create a specific, realistic image. Most of the artists were amateur painter-scholars who had the time and patience to do such work. Because they were educated people, they also wrote about painting techniques and expectations for a good work of art as far back as the 10th century. And by the end of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906), landscape painting in China had developed into an established art form.

The following is an illustration of a Japanese scroll, also known as an emakimono. You can learn more about this form of art at the Asian Society.

Scroll paintings are not kept out on display. They are rolled up and stored in wooden boxes, often wrapped in silks and bound with a cord. To view a scroll is a revelation. One carefully unrolls the scroll, viewing each section as it appears, never knowing what is coming next. To re-visit a scroll has been compared to re-visiting an old friend. While one might recall certain general outlines, the details can seem new again. Each viewing can bring greater pleasure as one discovered new things.

A brief history of scroll painting comes from The Metropolitan Museum of art:

It is believed that the handscroll was invented in India sometime before the fourth century B.C., where it was primarily used for religious texts, and came to China by the first century A.D. The introduction of the handscroll to Japan came several centuries later, as part of the spread of Buddhism from the mainland around the sixth century, along with many other cultural innovations, including the Chinese writing system. The earliest extant illustrated handscroll in Japan is a work showing episodes from the life of the Buddha, and was created in the eighth century.

An additional reference you might enjoy is Chinese Landscape Painting from the China Online Museum. For more information on “hanging scrolls”, you can visit The History of Hanging Scrolls. To learn more about the featured image see Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s art quiz feature.




  1. Interesting post! I have two hanging scrolls with their boxes that I picked up in Japan, but the art is more Chinese style than Japanese, both watercolour paintings. They are beautiful to look at though and the scroll format makes them easy to display. I didn’t know much about this form of art, so many thanks for the links!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating! My mom ( not an artist but for some reason she liked very specific types of art) had a book about chinese scroll art when i was a kid. I used to browse through it randomly and wonder about all of it. Thanks for posting!Enjoyable and informative!

    Liked by 1 person

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s