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Cultural Heritage

New-Year woodblock prints bid for world heritage listing

By Yusi Yang

January 19

National inheritors from over ten origins signed the bid to support Chinese New Year woodblock prints becoming a UNESCO listing.

National inheritors from over ten origins signed the bid to support Chinese New Year woodblock prints becoming a UNESCO listing.

At the 2017 Summit of the Inheritance and Innovation of Chinese New-Year Woodblock Prints, discussions on the inheritance and development of this artisanship were held among inheritors of over ten schools, including Taohuawu of Suzhou, Yangliuqing of Tianjin, Weifang of Shandong and Mianzhu of Sichuan. Experts and scholars from Academy of Arts & Design of Tsinghua University and China Arts and Crafts Association also attended the event.

According to Huo Qingyou, inheritor of Tianjin Yangliuqing woodblock prints, the bid was put forward by Feng Jicai, Chinese folk artist, in November 2011, and recently national inheritors from several origins have voluntarily signed to support the bid, which will be submitted to the UNESCO in 2017.

Suzhou Taohuawu New-Year picture, The God of Wealth [Image Credit: Chinanews.com; photo by Fang Zhida]
Huo said that New Year woodblock prints include a huge amount of content on history, society, myth, religion, beliefs, ethics, Chinese operas, literature, etc. This bid will boost the inheritance and innovation of this craft, as well as earn more attention and support from overseas.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, the bid has now entered a critical period. Discussions on the fate and future of New Year woodblock prints were sparked among summit attendees.

Zhang Dianying, inheritor of the school of Shandong Weifang, said that it has become hard to “nourish” New Year prints with only customs as New Year pictures have turned from necessities to souvenirs and collections. The biggest change for painters is that the work is becoming more skill-oriented and less “menial,” making it a big challenge to adapt to the aesthetics and values of modern people.

Ma Xiqin, inheritor of Hebei Wuqiang New Year woodblock prints, deemed that techniques like painting, outlining, engraving, brushing, printing and mounting are the roots to highlight regional features and traditions that must be adhered to by all schools. Even though old tools passed down from predecessors have been replaced by modern machines, inheritors should also pass on the old tools and craftsmanship integrally to the next generation in order to keep diversity among the schools.

Shanxi Xi’an New-Year picture [Image Credit: Chinanews.com; photo by Zou Di]
At the same time, the second Chinese New Year Woodblock Prints Exhibition was also held, and exhibited works from over ten origins including Suzhou Taohuawu, Tianjin Yangliuqing, Shandong Weifang, Sichuan Mianzhu, Chongqing Liangping, Henan Kaifeng, Shanxi Xi’an, Fujian Zhangzhou and Fujian Guangdong.

The theme of door-god alone is depicted in various images from each school, which different expressions, clothes, colors, and backgrounds. Except for traditional ones like Door-god, Scare Away Evil Spirits and Summon Good Luck and Three Gods, New Year pictures also involve ancient scholars like Su Shi, Li Bai and Zhang Xu, as well as literature masterpieces like Dream of the Red Chamber and Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Shandong Gaomi Puhui New-Year picture [Image Credit: Chinanews.com; photo by Liu Hongxia]
It is learned that family inheritance and recruiting apprentices are two inherit methods of New Year woodblock prints, with representatives of the former being Lv Hongxia, inheritor of Shandong Gaomi Puhui New Year paintings, and Xu Jiahui from Chongqing Liangping, while the latter being faced with brain drain.

New Year woodblock prints, which were included in the second intangible heritage list of China in 2008, is another Chinese intangible cultural heritage applying to join the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, following Kun Qu opera, Peking opera, Guqin, Shadow Puppetry, acupuncture and moxibustion of traditional Chinese medicine and the Twenty-Four Solar Terms.

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