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Yangliuqing New Year Paintings

 

 

Wood-block new year paintings were born in the town of Yangliuqing in the western suburb of Tianjin in the late Ming Dynasty. It is one of China’s well loved folk arts, having a history of more than 400 years and is created especially for decorations during the Chinese spring festival.

 

After two years of construction, the Tianjin Yangliuqing Painting museum was opened on 22 July 2011.  Located in downtown Tianjin, the Yangliuqing Painting museum is a symbol of preservation of this cultural heritage and houses some of the greatest wood-block paintings and templates of all time.

 

Our guide, Ms. Liu Yue agreed to show us around the museum. “This is currently the largest New Year Wood-block painting in China”, she said pointing at a magnificent structure that stood on one side of the entrance. “It measures 8.5 meters in length and 2.4 meters in height and took 51 days and 6 artists to complete this painting, and the museum is presently applying for the Guinness World Record in having the largest New Year painting in the world!” This beautiful painting portrayed different families celebrating the New Year. Ms Liu Yue then proceeded to show us how these paintings are created.

 

The making of these beautiful works of art include four main processes; tracing, engraving, printing and painting. The Tracing Master, Mr. Gao Yan demonstrated Tracing, the first step. He effortlessly traced the lines from a previous drawing onto a thin translucent cotton paper.

 

Mr. Wang Wenda, the Engraving Master is the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Project Representative Successor in China. After the traced paper is stuck face-down onto the piece of wood, Mr. Wang skilfully cut edges around the lines and made each line “pop-out” to create the wood-block template. His expert use of the fist knife and chisels highlights his remarkable talent.

 

Once the design is engraved on the wood, the printing process begins. The Printing Master, Mr. Xu Chao brushed Ink evenly onto the piece of wood and laid a paper on it. He then used a soft brush to gently press the paper against the wood. Even colours are printed in the same way. The usual order is the ink line, yellow, blue, purple, orange, red and golden powder if needed.

 

The painting process was demonstrated by Mr. Xu Yang, the painting Master. He gently added the finishing touches to complete this intricate painting. The time to complete one painting ranges from a few days to months and involves the work of several trained professionals.

 

The main purpose of these New Year Paintings is to carry forward folk art, history and culture. Although these forms of art appeal more to middle-aged and old people, a lot of young people are also beginning to rediscover these forms of art. A painting can cost up to several thousand Yuan but the belief that each painting can bring their family wealth, happiness and longevity still influences people to purchase them.

 

Yangliuqing Wood-block New Pictures now belong to an intangible cultural heritage protection program and this museum was built for the purpose of keeping this history alive.  Yangliuqing town is famous for its art and culture and these paintings are symbols of what remain of those glorious times.

 

 

The museum is free for public viewing everyday (except for Mondays) from 9:00AM to 4:30PM.

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