New Year paintings are a kind of traditional Chinese painting that originated from ancient “Door-Knights Paintings,” which were officially dubbed New Year paintings in the Qing Dynasty.
It is a unique genre of painting, and the art form reflects the delightful atmosphere of the culture.
They are usually posted on walls or used as decorations during Lunar New Year to symbolize the hopes and blessings for an auspicious and happy New Year. Therefore, they are called New Year paintings. Traditionally, New Year paintings are made with wood-based watermark.
The four most famous towns for New Year Folk Paintings in China are Sichuan Province’s Mianzhu, Tianjin’s Yangliuqing, Suzhou’s Taohuawu, and Shandong Province’s Weifang. In Shanghai, there are the so-called Yuefenpai (Monthly Brand) New Year paintings.
There are various names for New Year Paintings according to their sizes. Full-size New Year paintings (1042 X 751 mm) are called “Gong Jian (Palace Sharp) Paintings,” while those 751 X 345 mm are called “San Cai” New Year paintings. If they are painted with golden powder, they are called “Golden Palace Sharp” and “Golden San Cai” New Year paintings respectively.
Traditional New Year paintings are made with wood blocks. They are in simple and plain styles, but they have a lively atmosphere; their lines are very simple, but their colors are vibrant. Their contents range from flowers and birds to fat boys, roosters, buffaloes plowing in the spring, myths and historical legends, etc., to symbolize people’s longing for a successful harvest and a happy life. Therefore, they are very popular among people in both urban and suburban areas.
Translated and researched by Billy Shyu & Mona Song
Like this article? Read our China’s Greatest Folk Art: Chinese New Year Woodblock Prints