What are the differences between 芸術 (geijutsu) and 美術 (bijutsu)?

My native tongue has both of these Sino-Xenic terms too, although in it, the geijutsu-word is clearly "art form; art in general; the arts; the humanities" (including literature, music, performance, etc.), while the bijutsu-word is clearly "some visual artistic disciplines" (such as drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic design). No schools of the bijutsu-type would offer courses on, say, music. When you say "art for art's sake", you use the geijutsu-word. Although I admit that my language may be more under Western influence.

So is that the case with the Japanese words too? Or the differences are something else? Bilingual dictionaries don't seem to be of much help, because it seems like neither of these words actually corresponds to the Western concept of "art", kinda like kindai and gendai to "modern".

1 Answer 1


I don't speak Chinese nor Vietnamese, but your explanation is applicable in Japanese too. In short, 美術 is a sub-category of 芸術. 美術 only refers to traditional forms of visual art such as paintings, sculpture, photography and calligraphy. 芸術 also includes music, literature, dance and movie (and probably manga and video games, too).

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