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New Year Pictures

 

The expression explains itself. The Chinese people have the custom of sticking up pictures to celebrate the traditional New Year--now called the Spring Festival. This was recorded in historical works of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The custom is particularly popular in the vast countryside, where just before the festival day every household will be busy spring cleaning and pasting colourful pictures or paper cuttings on their doors, windows, walls, even wardrobes and stoves.

Traditional New Year pictures, usually made by the block printing method, are characterized by simple, clear lines, brilliant colours and scenes of prosperity. The method consists of several steps: drawing and tracing, block engraving, printing, colouring and, in some cases, mounting. The finished pictures, therefore, have the features of both woodcut prints and Chinese paintings, making a special branch in traditional folk art.

The themes expressed in New Year pictures cover a wide range, from plump babies holding a fish to the Old God of Longevity, from landscapes to birds and flowers, from the ploughing cattle in spring to rich harvests in autumn. Human figures often show artistic exaggeration, but the message in all pictures is always good luck , festivity or other nice things in the wish of the people. Usual objects in the pictures include the crane or the peach which symbolizes a long life, the plum or peony which is a mark of good fortune and happiness. The colours most favoured are red, green, purple, yellow and black-which are not only bright but contrast well with one another-intended to give fresh, vivid, pleasant and inspiring impressions.

To meet the specific needs of the vast rural population, New Year pictures are produced in all regions in China with different local characteristics. But the leading producers are at three localities: Yangliuqing Village near Tianjin, Taohuawu near Suzhou and Weifang in Shandong.

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