This article examines the phenomenon of Chinese realism, as well as the prerequisites and factors that influenced the processes of reception in modern Chinese art. At the beginning of the 20th century, under the influence of Western academic realism and the artistic system of social realism, a new direction and artistic method was formed - realism, which became mainstream in the art of China of the mid-20th century. According to its aesthetic and ideological motifs, Chinese realism is an object of social realism reception, which was determined by cultural and historical factors, and the development of political, economic and cultural ties with the USSR. Studying the realistic painting, which reflects the atmosphere of the era, the worldview, and the dialogue of cultures, is relevant for both Chinese and Russian contemporary art studies. The article examines the role of realism in the development of Chinese art culture of the 20th century, including its socio-political components, as well as the dynamics of artistic and expressive means and the iconographic system in the context of the historical and cultural situation. In the 1980s and 1990s, as a result of the liberalization of economic and political life, the artistic consciousness formed new concepts of realistic painting - neorealism and cynical realism, associated with a critical rethinking of the historical heritage. The neorealism and cynical realism, which would significantly enrich realistic painting with new forms and content, adopted Western postmodern concepts of pop art, and debunked, in a grotesque and satirical form, the political stereotypes of the past. The analysis of realistic painting of the 1990s demonstrates how the transformation of past painting canons reflects the desire of society to free itself from the pressure of totalitarian ideology and to rethink the value orientations of the previous era.The novelty of this study lies in the fact that it applies a systematic and holistic approach to the analysis of realism in Chinese painting, reveals the diversity of its forms and directions, and gives ground for the specifics of its evolution in the context of the artistic culture of the 20th century China. There are almost no comprehensive studies of this issue in modern art history, so this work is an attempt to create a scientific approach to the study of this artistic phenomenon and the formation of ideas about how the artistic consciousness of an entire epoch was changing.