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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

New Year best wishes pictures

An exhibition featuring unusual works by 19th century Chinese artists has started at the National Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Art
4 December, 2013 - 17:26
“ZUOWANG, THE DEITY OF HEARTH, WITH WIFE,” LATE 19th CENTURY, XYLOGRAPH
“A DOUBLE HAPPINESS HAS COME HOME. THE WISH OF A HAPPY FAMILY LIFE TO THE NEWLY-WEDS,” YANG LIUQING, LATE 19th CENTURY, XYLOGRAPH

The exhibition’s name is “Nianhua. The Magical World of the Chinese Folk Picture.” It displays items from the museum’s collection.

“Nianhua are New Year best wishes pictures. Chinese artists drew, carved on wooden boards, printed and painted these folk pictures throughout the year, but sold them only ahead of the New Year holiday, the most flamboyant of all the traditional Chinese holidays,” the exhibition’s curator Halyna Bilenko told The Day. “The celebrations started on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month and lasted for almost two weeks. Every year in this time, each family posted best wishes pictures at its home, hoping that the new year would bring everyone happiness, health, and prosperity. Colored woodcuts, highly beautiful and refined, hung in the house until the next holiday, to be burned on New Year’s Eve. It was believed that the spirit of the hearth reported to heaven on the family’s good deeds for all 12 months. The burned picture was replaced with a new one...”

Most nianhua that are extant now have been preserved by Europeans who were the first to highly appreciate them and gathered first collections of them at the time. The Khanenko Museum preserves unique specimens of 19th century Chinese New Year picture coming from Yangliuqing town.

Christmas folk prints made in Yangliuqing county of Tianjin represent an original genre of folk art which arose under the Ming dynasty during the reign of emperor Chongzhen (1628-44). Its heyday came under emperors Yongzheng (1723-35), Qianlong (1736-95) and Guangxu (1875-1908) of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Several thousand different images were placed on these pictures in those years.

Images vary widely, including children, beautiful women, flowers and birds, and characters from operas and various legends. By the way, Yangliuqing workshops are still manufacturing New Year pictures.

By Alisa ANTONENKO. Photo illustrations courtesy of the Khanenko Museum’s press service
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