Closely linked with the folk customs, daily life and production activities of the Chinese people, Yangliuqing new year prints have been popular ornaments to adorn doors and rooms during the Spring Festival in China, conveying the people’s best wishes for the new year.
This picture shows the coloring process of new year prints.
Door Gods Qin Qiong and Yuchi Jingde (version with “floating clouds on green foundation”). The main functions of door gods are to safeguard peace and security, and protect the house and family against demons or evil spirits. This pair of door gods, standing face to face holding their weapons of big hammers, creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere. The patterns of floating clouds on the background, while serving as highly-decorative elements to the image, imply that door gods fulfill their responsibility of protecting people on earth from the Heaven above clouds.
Abundant Harvest of All Crops. This is a pair of toddler-themed new year pictures, both featuring two children, the standing one holding a vase while the squatting one holding a court lantern. All the details on the image have been meticulously illustrated, including the motifs on garments, the vases and lanterns, serving as a foil to the healthy and adorable toddlers.
Ten Not Idle. “Ten Not Idle” is the name for a kind of songs with lyrics composed of auspicious idioms and sayings popular among Manchu families in the early Qing dynasty (1644-1912 AD). The five toddlers in this picture is thus named as each of them is busy playing with both hands a musical instrument different from that of another.
God of Wealth (golden foundation). The God of Wealth is a deity enjoying high popularity in China. Statues and images of him can be found everywhere, conveying people’s wishes for abundant wealth. Standing beside a “treasure bowl” which can generate boundless riches according to Chinese legends, the deity in this picture is holding a gold ingot and ruyi in hands, signifying wishes for wealth coming from an unlimited source.
Everything Going Well as Wished. The toddler in this piece, with a red flower adoring hair, is holding a big ruyi on the shoulder and a pair of persimmons in hands, expressing wishes for everything going well based on homonym of “persimmon” and “everything” as well as “ruyi” and “as wished” in Mandarin Chinese.
Having Babies One After the Other. The toddler in this picture is playing a musical instrument named “sheng”, with lotus flowers and pods in the background, implying the longing for “having babies one after the other” based on the combination of lotus and sheng which are both endowed with auspicious meanings in the Chinese culture. The application of homonyms is a common and popular artistic expression in Chinese new year pictures, especially in Yangliuqing Woodblock New Year Prints of Tianjin.