Unit 3 Overview: Influences of Beauty and Art

7 min readjanuary 3, 2023



AP Chinese  🇨🇳

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Introduction to Unit 3

Welcome to our overview of Unit 3 for the AP Chinese exam! In this unit, we will be exploring the various ways in which beauty and art have influenced Chinese culture throughout history. From ancient Chinese poetry and painting, to music and performance arts, we will delve into the rich and diverse cultural traditions that have shaped the country's artistic landscape. In this unit, we will also be studying how beauty and art intersect with other areas of Chinese life, such as philosophy, politics, and social norms. Whether you are a student taking the AP Chinese course, or simply someone interested in learning more about Chinese culture, we hope that this overview will provide you with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the enduring impact of beauty and art in China.

Unit 3 Essential Questions

STUDY TIP: Use the following essential questions to guide your review of this entire unit. Keep in mind, these are not meant to be practice essay questions. Each question was written to help you summarize the key concept.
The main topic of this unit is exploring how beauty and art influence the Chinese-speaking communities. Beauty and Aesthetics will be the main focus, although some previous themes mentioned make a reappearance.
As you work through this unit, think about these questions:
  1. How do ideals of beauty and aesthetics influence daily life? (审美和美学的理想是怎么影响到日常生活?)
  2. How does art both challenge and reflect cultural perspectives? (艺术是如何又反对又反映文化观点?)
  3. How do communities value beauty and art? (社区是如何看待美和艺术?)
  4. How is art used to record history? (艺术是如何用来记录历史的?)

Past Free-Response Questions from Unit 3 Overview: Influences of Beauty and Art

Note: Many free-response questions draw from information and vocabulary from multiple units and don’t fit neatly into one unit only. You will likely see them in other unit overviews as well.

Interpersonal Writing: Email Response

Interpersonal Speaking: Conversation

Presentational Speaking: Cultural Presentation

3.1 Chinese Visual and Performing Arts

  • Peking opera (also known as Beijing opera) is a traditional Chinese form of theater that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics
  • It originated in the late 18th century and evolved into a more structured form in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • Peking opera is an important part of Chinese culture and entertainment and has a wide range of characters including heroes, villains, and comedic figures
  • Peking opera has a complex system of vocalization and distinct hand gestures and body movements
  • Performers wear elaborate costumes and makeup, with each character having a specific style that conveys their personality and role in the story
  • The colors of the costumes and makeup often have symbolic meanings in Peking opera
  • Examples of common color symbols include white for malevolence, yellow for cruelty, green for violence, black for neutrality, and red for bravery and good fortune
  • Peking opera performances typically include singing, dialogue, and action scenes, and may be accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments
  • Peking opera has influenced other forms of Chinese entertainment and has a significant cultural and historical significance in China
  • Other forms of Chinese visual and performing arts include traditional Chinese dance, traditional Chinese theater, and traditional Chinese acrobatics

3.2 Chinese Music and Painting

  • Chinese music and painting have played a role in both personal and public identities in China
  • Chinese traditional music includes classical, folk, and opera styles, and is played on a variety of instruments
  • Traditional Chinese instruments are divided into categories called 八音 (Silk, Bamboo, Wood, Stone, Metal, Clay, Gourd, and Skin) and include the 二胡, 古筝, 琵琶, 笛子, and 萧
  • Modern music in China includes genres such as C-pop, hip hop, rock, and music from other countries, and popular artists include 薛之谦, 周杰伦, 邓紫棋 (G.E.M.), 毛不易, and TFBoys
  • Chinese painting has a long history and includes styles such as traditional Chinese landscape painting, ink wash painting, and modern Chinese painting
  • Traditional Chinese painting techniques include the use of brush, ink, and paper, and often depict subjects such as landscapes, animals, and figures
  • Modern Chinese painting includes a variety of styles and techniques, and may incorporate elements of Western art
  • Chinese calligraphy is the art of writing Chinese characters and includes styles such as regular script, cursive script, and seal script
  • Chinese literature includes works such as poetry, novels, and plays, and has a long history dating back to ancient China
  • Chinese film is a popular form of entertainment in China and includes both domestic and international films

3.3 Chinese Beauty Ideals and Pop Culture

  • Chinese beauty standards differ from Western standards, with a preference for fair skin, double eyelids, and certain facial features
  • The use of skin-whitening products, including dangerous ingredients such as mercury, is prevalent in China
  • The preference for fair skin is reflected in limited makeup shade ranges and the prevalence of brightening creams
  • A common surgery in China is blepharoplasty, which creates double eyelids to make the eye appear larger
  • Being extremely thin is also desired in China, with a limited size range in clothing, especially for women
  • Fashion trends for women in China often follow an innocent and angelic look, while men tend to wear outfits that make them appear sophisticated or sporty
  • Famous fashion brands are popular in China and there is a significant knockoff industry for these brands
  • It is important to remember not to modify oneself or one's body to fit cultural norms, and to understand and respect cultural differences while also valuing self-acceptance and self-love.
  • Popular Chinese TV shows include "Keep Running," "Happy Camp," "The Rap of China," "Where Are We Going, Dad?", "The Voice of China," and "Street Dance of China"
  • Famous Chinese singers include Jay Chou, Wang Leehom, and Eason Chan
  • Popular Chinese TV dramas include "The Untamed," "Eternal Love," and "Story of Yanxi Palace"
  • Chinese internet culture includes popular social media platforms such as Weibo and Bilibili

3.4 Chinese Poetry and Architecture

  • Chinese poetry dates back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) and has a rich tradition that has influenced literature and art around the world.
  • Chinese songs have a similarly long history and have played a central role in the country's cultural life.
  • The Book of Songs/Classic of Poetry (诗经(shījīng)) is the first book in China containing poems and includes poems written from the 11th century BCE and the 7th century BCE.
  • Poetry in China had its Golden Age during the Tang dynasty (618 CE-907 CE). Poetry was required for the civil service exam, known as the Imperial examination system (科举制度(kējǔ zhìdù)).
  • A collection of the most popular poems during the Tang dynasty is called the Three Hundred Tang Poems (唐诗三百首(tángshī sānbǎi shǒu)).
  • During the Song dynasty (960 CE-1279 CE), many poems were based on previous rhythms and tunes, known as Cí (词(cí)).
  • Chinese architecture, with its distinctive style and use of materials, has been recognized as a unique form of art for centuries and has had many influences on other countries in South Asia.
  • Famous Chinese museums, such as the Palace Museum in Beijing and the Shanghai Museum, showcase the country's rich cultural heritage.
  • Chinese architecture is characterized by its use of timber framing, painted decorations, and emphasis on symmetry and balance.
  • The Forbidden City in Beijing is an example of Chinese imperial palace architecture and is a World Heritage Site. It was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty.
  • The Great Wall of China is another famous example of Chinese architecture and is a World Heritage Site. It is a series of fortifications made of brick, tamped earth, and other materials that were built along the historical northern borders of China.
  • The Shanghai Tower is a notable example of modern Chinese architecture, standing at 632 meters tall and featuring a twisted design.
  • Traditional Chinese architecture includes the use of wooden structures, red and yellow colors, and complex decorative designs.
  • Modern Chinese architecture includes a mix of traditional and Western styles, with a focus on functionality and the use of modern materials.
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