Woodcut New Year paintings

Chinese New Year Paintings, or “Nianhua” in Chinese, are traditional paintings to be put on walls, windows or even wardrobes and stoves during the Spring Festival.

They are characterized by bright colors and scenes of prosperity which endows good wishes.

A town named Yangliuqing in Tianjin is the leading producer of Chinese New Year Painting. More than 70 painting workshops are located there.

Huo Qingyou, a sixth-generation successor of woodcut New Year Pictures, owns a renowned workshop. Painters and workers are especially busy during the Spring Festival.

“We’ve sold about two to three thousand New Year Paintings this year. The sales revenue is nearly 10,000 U.S. dollars.”

Yangliuqing Woodblock New Year Pictures originated in the Ming dynasty in the 17th century, and flourished in the Qing Dynasty.

They are now part of China’s intangible cultural heritage. The woodcut New Year Picture is famous for its unique craftsmanship.

“Yangliuqing Woodblock New Year Pictures belong to folk culture. Many people like them as the paintings show our real life and the beautiful life which we desire. Yangliuqing pictures are different from the pictures elsewhere: we adopt five techniques – delineation, woodcarving, overprinting, color painting and mounting. Several subjects are typical in the paintings – babies, folk customs, folk tales, ancient ladies, and deity. They represent people’s good wishes for the new year and the esteem of their ancestors.”

Artists first draw a picture outline on the board, carve along the lines, then they cover the board on papers to print the outline on the paper. Finally they color the pictures and mount them.

Every step requires one craftsman to look after. Thus, a completed New Year Painting is a combination of five people’s endeavor.

As each procedure is very sophisticated, many people study one particular skill since childhood and do nothing but this in their whole life.

Now about 600 people in the town are committed themselves to the industry. Each piece of work has very high artistic folklore value.

During the Spring Festival, such pictures are popular presents.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE): GAO HONGLIANG, Official, Xiqing District, Tianjin
“This year, the 70 workshops realized sales revenue of over 10 million U.S. dollars. We hold Yangliuqing Woodblock Painting Festival every year to build a platform for artists to communicate and spread the culture. We also encourage the youth to learn the art at primary, middle schools and colleges.”

The Xiqing District government also built a traditional folk culture street to boost the industry’ development.

Artists agree that preserving the traditional craftsmanship and promoting it to the world is the priority among priorities.

“We sell the woodcut New Year Pictures abroad and they are very popular there. Some of the paintings are collected in museums overseas. I have a small museum at home to show pictures, to let more people know Yangjiuqing Paintings and to better protect the cultural heritage.”

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