Children at Play in Chinese Painting

Children at play in fragrant gardens or at work in lush fields have been a recurring theme in Chinese art over the past two millennia. Objects and paintings dating from the first through the twentieth century, complemented by ceramics and ivory carvings, depict children playing in urban and rural settings. Relationships among family members, from infants in mothers’ arms to siblings splashing in a tub of water, are explored through various media. Common childhood delights of catching butterflies and skipping rope are juxtaposed with lively images of boys herding oxen and romping in fields, all lovingly depicted in engaging scenes throughout the centuries.