New Year Picture, also known as “Nianhua” in Chinese, is a unique art form in Chinese folk culture. The painting is called “New Year Picture” because it is mostly posted during the Lunar New Year holiday, or the Spring Festival for decoration and it is also a symbol of New Year’s greetings. The picture conveys people’s jubilation and expectations of the coming new year.
The history of New Year Pictures can date back to the period of the Han Dynasty. Its original form was a picture of Door Gods. Later, in the Song Dynasty, New Year Picture was popular and widely spread. With the advancement of printing technology, the content and form of New Year Picture became more diversified. It was created on a considerable scale. During the period of the Qing Dynasty, when the art hit its heyday, it was formally known as the New Year Picture.
Traditional New Year pictures, usually made by the block printing method, are characterized by simple, clear lines, brilliant colours and scenes of prosperity, which capture all jubilant festive customs, life details, stories from traditional opera novels and folktales etc. New Year Pictures mostly feature auspicious and joyous subjects, which 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.
Four Well-Known Localities
To meet the specific needs of the vast population, New Year Pictures are produced in all regions in China with different local characteristics. But the leading producers are at four localities: Yangliuqing of Tianjin, Yangjiabu of Weifang in Shandong Province, Taohuawu of Suzhou in Jiangsu Province and Foshan of Guangdong Province.
As a folk handicraft, New Year Picture embodies people’s best wishes for the future. Regarded as the symbol of good luck and happiness, it is usually updated once a year just as its name suggests, meaning “say goodbye to the past and welcome the future”.