Painting has always been regarded by the Chinese as a supreme art, its merits equal to those of poetry and philosophy. The tradition can be traced over 2,500 years, but - from very early on - many Chinese paintings were made to be viewed on a temporary basis, displayed for just a few hours, or perhaps several weeks. The masterpieces of the form have been seen very rarely, and then only by few, particularly in the West. This spectacular book accompanies a major V&A exhibition that brings together some of the world's masterpieces on silk and paper - many of which will be displayed only for a short time. Presenting works from the richest and most representative collections in the world, the book is an authoritative guide to these great works, and includes the best paintings by the greatest masters as well as those by lesser-known artists. Written by a team of international scholars, the book explains the background against which Chinese painters worked, as well as the original social context of the paintings and their display in the palace, temple, studio or tomb.