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New Year picture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

New Year picture of the Qing dynasty
New Year picture of the Qing dynasty
New Year picture. Unknown. 1900.
New Year picture. Unknown. 1900.

A New Year picture (Chinese: ; pinyin: níanhùa) is a popular Banhua in China. It is a form of Chinese colored woodblock print, for decoration during the Chinese New Year Holiday, then later used to depict current events.


Its original form was a picture of a door god fashioned during the Tang dynasty. Later, more subjects, such as fairs, the Kitchen God, women and babies were included. Customarily, as each Chinese New Year arrives, every family replaces its New Year picture in order to "say goodbye to the Past and welcome the Future" (Chinese: ).

In the 19th century, nianhua were mass-produced and displayed for those who could not read. They often depicted the Chinese point of view of events.[1]

The scenes sometimes were used to create patriotic sentiment. Many nianhua were produced during the Boxer Rebellion depicting the Muslim Kansu Brave forces of General Dong Fuxiang, showing them as victorious over the Eight Nation Alliance of the western powers and Japan.[2]

The most famous production places for New Year Pictures in China are Sichuan,[3] Tianjin,[4] Shandong,[5] and Suzhou.[6] Among the best four, Yangliuqing,[7] from Tianjin was regarded as the greatest. Yanliuqing’s paintings were first produced between 1573 and 1620.

The New Year Pictures in Sichuan were mostly come from Mianzhu. Mianzhu’s New Year Pictures are different from other places’. The particular rules require symmetry, completeness, equilibrium, clarity and a moral meaning. It originates from earlier Song Dynasty and booming in late Ming and early Qing Dynasty. In its prosperous time, there were more than 300 workshops in Mianzhu. In addition, the production were transported and sold not only in different parts of China, but also sold to India, Japan and other countries.[original research?]

As times changed, people, especially those in cities, were influenced by modern arts to see New Year Pictures as traditional and staid. Moreover, people considered the door god was too menacing to hang in their homes. They wanted something more artistic. At the middle of the 1980s, the sales amount of New Year Pictures in Mianzhu was around five hundred thousand. However, the number dropped sharply since the early 1990s.[original research?]


New Year pictures in the Ming dynasty

In Ming China, the quantity of Chinese New Year pictures increased rapidly.[8] This development was because of the Ming’s government policy, widespread novels, and the development of woodblock printing techniques.[8] New Year picture workshop (Chinese: 画坊) (Pinyin:Huà fāng), the store where New Year picture was made and sold also developed in Ming China.[9]

After Zhu Yuanzhang took over the empire from Yuan dynasty, the Ming government allowed handicraftsmen to pay 0.28 tales of fine silver per year to replace the labor work that they had to do for government. Many handicraftsmen chose to pay the money and work freely to maximize their income.[8]

In Ming China, it was popular to add illustrations into novels for people who can’t read Chinese characters.[8] Huagong (画工), skilled painters without official position in the court, had lower social status than the literati painters . This group of artisans created the illustrations for novels and plays, some of the pictures used as New Year picture templates, so called 粉本(Pinyin:Fěn běn) in Chinese. There was a surplus of huagong in that time period, so they needed to specialize, and many of them chose to become New Year picture artisans.[8]

The vast increase in novels production led to rapid improvement of the woodblock printing technique, and in Ming China, it was the “Golden Age” of the woodblock printing technique.[8] Here are some famous Chinese novels that were published in Ming dynasty: Journey to the West, The Golden Lotus, Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, etc.

New Year picture artisans had lower social status than literati painters in Ming China, so there was no signature on New Year pictures and no famous New Year Picture artisans in Ming China. A New Year picture was seasonal decoration painting, it changed every year, so there were very limited numbers of New Year pictures from the Ming dynasty. Many New Year pictures and workshops were destroyed during the war times,[10] but one building in Weifang has been proved to be a Ming New Year picture's workshop. It contains a production room to make New Year pictures, a WangFang (Chinese: 望房), the room to display New Year pictures to customers, an accountant’s office, rooms where painting merchants stayed short-term, and rooms for the workshop’s owner.[9] This represents the New Year picture artisans’ business model, the artisans producing and selling their pictures by themselves.

Production method

Production method: hand draws pictures, wood printing, watermarks trapping, Half-drawing and half-painting, lithography, offset printing and so on.

Usually, Chromatic woodblock New Year pictures have four steps:

Firstly, artist draw rough sketch on the paper

Secondly, carving the rough sketch on the wood board and print few sample

Thirdly, add color on the sample and carving couple color board for each part of color on the sample. (Usually no more than 5 color)

Finally, when the preparation is complete. The printer paint color on the color board before carved, then put paper on the wood board and use brush to flat brush the paper. Then the Chromatic woodblock New Year picture is complete.[11]


Chang'e Flying to the Moon.Wu Shaoyun. 1950.
Chang'e Flying to the Moon.Wu Shaoyun. 1950.

New Year picture's content can have many things and that is more than 2000 different. But roughly the New Year pictures have four main themes.

1. The Immortals and mascot

2. The secular life

3. The baby and beauty

4. The story and myth

1. The gods and mascot

That is basic theme of New Year picture. The immortal is mainly content of New Year print in the early time, which account for a large proportion of New Year picture. The mascot including lions, tigers, deer, cranes, Phoenix and auspicious birds, lotus, peony and other flowers, a cash tree, pot of gold and other fictional product showing auspicious meaning through metaphor, a symbol, or homophonic and other techniques, the expression of good luck and happy and leaving bad luck or evil away.

2. The secular life

The folk artists through their own observation and feelings to show what the real life is, this kind of subject matter less than the other subjects in the New Year pictures. Topics include people of interest-bearing work of secular life, festive customs, current affairs anecdotes, etc.

3. The baby and beauty

The subject matter in a large proportion in the folk New Year pictures, expressed the people early birth, husband and wife and good will.

4. The story and myth

This part is mostly based on historical events, folk stories, myths, legends, notes novel and drama, the drama theme proportion is the largest. People often through such subjects increased knowledge, and accept the traditional moral education.[12]


According to the printing process , the New Year picture can be divided into wood New Year paintings, watercolor paintings, posters, offset printing posters.

According to the color level, the New Year picture can be divided into monochrome pictures, posters, color posters and black and white printing.

According to length points, the New Year picture can be divided into the ancient New Year pictures, posters, and contemporary posters in modem times.

According to different area of china, the New Year picture can be divided into the Chinese New Year paintings, western New Year pictures.[13]


New Year picture usually print with simple lines and bright and warm color. Also make people feeling happy. The art of New Year picture have very long history in china, but also reflects the history of Chinese society, life, beliefs and customs. Every Lunar New Year, people bought few pictures posted on the door, and almost every home is same. Every family, from the front door to the private room and all covered with a variety of colorful symbol of auspicious and wealth of New Year picture. The reason of the Chinese New Year filled with happily and lively, the New Year picture is a main element and also the New Year pictures is an important role in the New Year.

New Year picture is not only a kind of colorful decoration. It's a kind of cultural circulation, education of moral, a kind of Chinese art. Also is a kind of visual public readings. For the kind of events of the theme, it's also a kind of media.[14]

See also

Further reading

  • Madeline Yue Dpng, “The Fortunes of a Folk Tradition: Yangliuqing New Year’s Pictures,” in James Cook, Joshua Goldstein, Sigrid Schmalzer eds., Visualizing Modern China. Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.


  1. ^ Wood, Frances. "The Boxer Rebellion, 1900: A Selection of Books, Prints and Photographs". British Library. Archived from the original on 2010-01-09. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  2. ^ Jane E. Elliott (2002). Some did it for civilisation, some did it for their country: a revised view of the boxer war. Chinese University Press. p. 204. ISBN 962-996-066-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  3. ^ "中国年画". Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  4. ^ "中国年画". Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  5. ^ "中国年画". Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  6. ^ "中国年画". Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  7. ^ "Chinese New Year Graphics". Archived from the original on 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Wang, Shucun (2005). 中国年画发展史. Tianjin: Tianjin renmin meishu chubanshe. p. 519. ISBN 7-5305-2605-7.
  9. ^ a b Zhang, Dianying; Zhang, Yunxiang (2013). 潍坊木板年画:传承与创新. Beijing: Xinzhi sanlian shudian. p. 293. ISBN 978-7-108-04557-7.
  10. ^ Flath, James A (2004). The cult of happiness: art, and history in rural north China. Vancouver; Seattle: UBC Press; University of Washington Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-7748-1034-3.
  11. ^ "中國民間年畫簡述". Retrieved 2010-01-26.
  12. ^ "中國民間年畫簡述". Retrieved 2010-01-26.
  13. ^ "新春年畫". Retrieved 2011-02-03.
  14. ^ "春節習俗——年畫". Retrieved 2011-01-28.
This page was last edited on 22 August 2020, at 13:07
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