Chinese painting is a beautiful form of art that is well-known around the world. Though when most are asked what they know about Chinese paintings, their answers would often feature Chinese painting categories such as 水墨 shuimo (ink painting), 山水 shanshui (landscape painting), 花鸟 huaniao (flower and bird painting), or 人像 renxiang (figure painting). However, there is a Chinese painting category that is often forgotten, and that is 界画  jiehua, also known as boundary painting, border painting, and ruled-line painting. Jiehua is the Chinese painting that depicts detailed renderings of architecture against the 山水 shanshui backdrop. Jiehua is painted by using a 界尺 jiechi ruler, a groove ruler, and a brush to draw straight lines that were necessary to depict architectural details. The name jiehua originated in the 界尺 jiechi  ruler that is used to create the straight and precise line within an architecture rendering. Though the key feature that differentiated the method used in jiehua to other categories of Chinese painting is the usage of rulers, some famous jiehua artists use freehand techniques (without the usage of rulers) to draw the straight lines in the architecture. Some famous examples of jiehua that are 《清明上河图》 (Along the River during Qingming Festival) by 张择端 (Zhang Zeduan) that was created during the Northern Song dynasty.

Though the term jiehua originated during the Song dynasty and it was officially recognized as a category of Chinese painting during the same period, there are still earlier traces of jiehua that dates all the way back to the Eastern Zhou dynasty (770 BC – 221 BC) to the end of Imperial China following the fall of Qing dynasty. The earliest traces of jiehua found date back to the Eastern Zhou dynasty. Earlier forms of jiehua are usually in forms of cave murals. The earliest example of jiehua as we know it dates back to the Sui dynasty with a painting titled 《游春图》Spring Excursion by 展子虔 (Zhan Ziqian). Zhan Ziqian’s work featured a vast 山水 shanshui landscape with small details of architecture which is different from the normal landscape paintings painted during that period.

Jiehua was ushered into its golden age when culture and art flourished during the Tang dynasty. Artists during the Tang dynasty took jiehua beyond the realm of technical architectural drawings to new artistic heights in terms of quality, technique, and expression. The most famed jiehua that arose during this period is, without exception the Dunhuang murals, especially in the Mogao Cave, which provide a rich source of visual material not simply for the study of Tang art. The thematic scope of jiehua also continued its expansion of incorporating landscape environs and human figures, with landscapes even dominating the composition over the architectural renderings, as seen in paintings such as 《江帆楼阁图》(Jiangfan Pavilion Picture)  by Li Sixun 李思训. 

Jiehua was a very unknown category of Chinese art even though 《清明上河图》 or Along the River during Qingming Festival, a very iconic example of jiehua, is known worldwide. This boils down to people never hearing the term jiehua and only seeing《清明上河图》(Along the River during Qingming Festival) as a famous Chinese painting scroll rather than it being under the category of jiehua. There are also very few scholarly texts written about jiehua, especially sources written in English. 

There are traces of jiehua that can be found outside of China, especially in Japan and Korea. The spread of jiehua to other countries can be attributed to many factors; one of these main factors is the Maritime Trade Supervisorate in Hangzhou in 1284. The impact of jiehua can also be illustrated through examples of artworks created in Japan and Korea. For example, Scenes in and around Kyoto created by a Japanese artist in the Kano School,  bear resemblance to Along the River during Qingming Festival by Zhang Zeduan. Jiehua should be more appreciated and studied more to ensure that the future generations do not forget about the magnificent category of art that existed.