The expression explains itself. The Chinese people have
the custom of sticking up pictures to celebrate the traditional
New Year--now called the Spring Festival. This was recorded
in historical works of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The custom is particularly popular in the vast countryside, where just
before the festival day every household will be busy spring
cleaning and pasting colourful pictures or paper cuttings on their
doors, windows, walls, even wardrobes and stoves.
Traditional New Year pictures, usually made by the block printing method, are characterized by simple, clear lines, brilliant colours and scenes of prosperity. The method consists of
several steps: drawing and tracing, block engraving, printing,
colouring and, in some cases, mounting. The finished pictures,
therefore, have the features of both woodcut prints and Chinese
paintings, making a special branch in traditional folk art.
The themes expressed in New Year pictures cover a wide
range, from plump babies holding a fish to the Old God of Longevity, from
landscapes to birds and flowers, from the ploughing cattle in
spring to rich harvests in autumn. Human figures often show
artistic exaggeration, but the message in all pictures is always
good luck , festivity or other nice things in the wish of the people. Usual objects in the pictures include the crane or the peach
which symbolizes a long life, the plum or peony which is a mark
of good fortune and happiness. The colours most favoured are
red, green, purple, yellow and black-which are not only
bright but contrast well with one another-intended to give
fresh, vivid, pleasant and inspiring impressions.
To meet the specific needs of the vast rural population,
New Year pictures are produced in all regions in China with different local characteristics. But the leading producers are at
three localities: Yangliuqing Village near Tianjin, Taohuawu
near Suzhou and Weifang in Shandong.