Woodblock prints add festive flavor to holiday season

About 100 historic woodblock prints, or Chinese New Year paintings, are being exhibited in the Shanghai Luxun Museum.
Shanghai Luxun Museum / Ti Gong

A woodblock print of the gods of fu, lu and shou, meaning happiness, fortune and longevity, respectively, is on display at the Shanghai Luxun Museum through March 8.

About 100 historic woodblock prints, or Chinese New Year paintings, are being exhibited at a downtown museum.

The woodcut prints being displayed at the Shanghai Luxun Museum feature Chinese Lunar New Year traditions, celebrations, customs, and historic figures and gods from traditional Chinese culture.

The exhibition at the museum  (200 Tian’ai Road), which is inside Luxun Park, is free and runs until March 8.

The folk art is a combination of woodblock carving and hand painting. In ancient times, the prints were mass-produced and displayed for those who could not read. That's why they feature simple lines in bright and warm colors.

Shanghai Luxun Museum / Ti Gong

A Zhuxian Town woodblock print of Menshen, or Gate Gods, is being exhibited at the Shanghai Luxun Museum through March 8.

“The exhibition aims to showcase traditional folk art and promote the festive tradition of printing the paintings during the Chinese New Year,” an official with the museum said.The woodcut is traditionally an auspicious symbol to dispel devils on the Lunar New Year.

Woodblock artists will teach visitors how to print their own artworks between February 22 and March 1.

Exhibits include 12 century-old prints that were collected by Lu Xun (1881-1936), pen name of Zhou Shuren, one of the most famous Chinese writers of the early 20th century.

The other 85 pieces are from Beijing Art Museum and cover several mainstream schools of woodblock print across the country. 

Shanghai Luxun Museum / Ti Gong

A woodblock print from Yangliuqing Town in the northern Tianjin City depicting snowy scenery during the Spring Festival.

Many traditional Chinese gods are portrayed in the paintings, such as the gods of fu, lu, and shou, meaning happiness, fortune and longevity, respectively. Menshen, or Gate Gods, are put on doors as protectors of the family.

Although the woodblock custom has always been closely associated with rural life in China, it’s now popular among both tourists and residents in big cities like Shanghai.

Shanghai Luxun Museum / Ti Gong

Yangliuqing Town woodblock prints of Men Shen, or Gate Gods are being exhibited at the Shanghai Luxun Museum through March 8.

Typical local-style woodblock prints named Xiaojiaochang are being displayed at the Yuyuan Garden area. The art is named after its place of origin — Xiaojiaochang in the city’s Laochengxiang, or Old Town, near Yuyuan Garden.

They depict city life in the early 1900s, with locomotives, telephones, nightclubs, circus performers, Westerners enjoying the Lantern Festival, and other aspects of life not traditionally reproduced in Chinese folk art.

The Huabao Tower in the area is exhibiting 44 replicas of the century-old prints. It is free of charge and open until March 5.

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