Yangliuqing New Year Woodblock Prints

China Intangible Heritage Industry Alliance

A Brief Introduction of Yangliuqing New Year Woodblock Prints
Originated during the reign of Emperor Chongzhen in the end of Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD) in the thousand-year-old town named Yangliuqing (literally meaning “Green Poplar and Willow”) in the suburbs of Tianjin, the Yangliuqing New Year Woodblock Prints are one of the several well-known Chinese folk new year pictures, enjoying an equivalent reputation to the new year woodcut prints produced in Taohuawu ( “Peach Blossom Dock”) of China’s Jiangnan region, thus the nickname “willow in the north and peach in the south”. Adopting techniques combining woodblock printing and colored hand-painting, Yangliuqing new year pictures established distinctive features of an eye-catching, joyful color palette, auspicious meanings and diverse touching subjects, based on the inheritance of painting traditions from the Ming and Yuan dynasties (960-1368 AD) and reference to the forms of Ming-dynasty woodcut new year paintings, arts and crafts as well as opera stages.

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.

The coloring process of new year prints.

Different steps o f the coloring process.


Brushes used for new year pictures.

Classic New Year Prints by Feng Qingju
Born in 1944 in Tianjin, Feng Qingju started to engage in the production of Yangliuqing new year prints in 1960 and has evolved into the representative inheritor of this art form which is listed in the first batch of the state-level intangible cultural heritage. As a reputed variety of Chinese new year pictures in the north of China, Yangliuqing woodblock prints require the command of a wide range of techniques including sketching, coloring, painting, carving and printing, among which sketching and painting are the ones that Feng is especially known for his professionalism and ingenuity.

Feng Qingju is working on a painting.

Door Gods Qin Qiong and Yuchi Jingde. The worship of door gods is a time-honored tradition in China, as historical recordings show that the earliest door gods were Shen Tu and Yu Lei in the period before the Qin dynasty (221-207 BC).

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.

Abundant Wealth and Plenty of Offspring. Goldfish has long been seen as an auspicious token of wealth and nobility based on the homonym of its name “jin yu” and “gold and jade” in the Chinese language.

Abundant Wealth and Plenty of Offspring (partial). This piece illustrates a scene of court ladies and chubby toddlers watching goldfish. The elegance and gentleness of court ladies pose an interesting contrast to the liveliness and vitality of the children.

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.

Happiness and Abundance Year After Year. This piece portrays a toddler holding a big carp in his arms, with patters of ripples in the background. The combination of fish and a healthy and adorable boy implies longing for abundant wealth and offspring year after year based on homonyms in Chinese.

Playing Cricket. This piece implies people’s wishes for having sons based on the homonym of “cricket” and “brother” in Chinese, with the latter also referring to “male” in the Tianjin dialect.

Abundant Wealth Year After Year. This is a typical piece among the various forms in the representative series on the theme of “toddler holding a fish” in the Yangliuqing Woodblock New Year Pictures, extending people’s wishes for happiness and longing for an abundant life.

Liu Hai Playing with Gold Toad. Legend has it that the Gold Toad kept spitting gold coins thanks to the trick by Liu Hai, who donated all the money to the poor people. Out of gratitude and reverence, the people during that period called Liu Hai “deity on earth”.

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.

Offering Birthday Gift. Three toddlers are holding a big peach on their palms to offer as a birthday gift.

This painting expresses wishes for “longevity” and “plenty of children”, which is exactly what everyone is longing for.

China Intangible Heritage Industry Alliance
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