Teng Da Qian, Chinese New Year Pictures Today

Originally published in: Xu Chenshi (ed.), Disijie quanguo nianhuazhan huojiang zuopin xuan / Winning entries from the National Chinese New Year Pictures competition (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1990), ISBN 7-102-00595-4, s.p.

This book comes as the result of the Fourth Annual Chinese New Year pictures Competition sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China, the Bureau of Publishing Administration, the Chinese Artists Association and the Chinese Publishers' Association. It was edited by the Chinese New Year Pictures Research Group of the Chinese Publishers' Association and was published by the Chinese PEOPLE'S FINE ARTS PUBLISHING HOUSE

Chinese New Pictures have a long history in Chinese traditional folk arts. As reliable written records indicate in the Song Dynasty, Chinese New Year Picture along with the process of printing have developed for over a thousand years. Throughout its history, Chinese New Year Pictures have enjoyed wide popular appreciation, particularly among peasants. Since 1949, they have received unprecedented government support under the official protection of the Ministry of Culture and the National State Council. The Chinese New Year Pictures of the 1950's are representative of our nation's highest artistic endeavors of the period.

Although the publishing industry has its ups and downs, the printing of Chinese New Year Pictures thrives with an average of over 100,000 prints for each painting, bringing forth significant social and economic benefits as well as contributing to the development of our publishing industry. Artists have varied opinions on the artistic value of Chinese New Year Pictures. Some believe modern Chinese New Year Pictures are not as good as those of the past. Others believe they are outmoded and ought to be abandoned. Although opinions vary, the production of over 600 million prints annually attests to their broad public appeal.

The development of today's Chinese New Year Pictures is part of a historical movement. Generation after generation, they follow the pattern of translating the people's wishes and dreams through images. Viewer appreciation has changed over the years. Contemporary Chinese New Year Pictures must not only satisfy the people's cultural needs but also promote the public's ability to appreciate the pictures and at the same time elevate the artist's artistic skills and knowledge.

What is a Chinese New Year Pictures? The new edition of "Cihai" describes it thus: a type of picture which one pastes on the wall during the Chinese New Year. For many years, we have regarded it as a category of visual arts, i.e. oil paintings, ink and watercolor pictures prints, sculpture and posters. However, strictly speaking, we do not consider it to be an independent category on its own as it combines other medis [sic; media ?]. In the 50's, a famous Chinese New Year picture "Inauguration Ceremony" was actually an oil painting. Recently, several "world masterpieces" have been printed as Chinese New Year pictures Several calendar type Chinese New Year pictures have combined Western and Chinese design elements. Folk art type Chinese New Year pictures are similar to prints of carved wood blocks. The themes of Chinese water color pictures ... bird and flower, landscape, and portraits are subjects often seen in Chinese New Year pictures. Recently, photographic prints consist of two fifths of all Chinese New Year prints.

Thus, one is forced to look at Chinese New Year pictures in new terms. It combines the various media of the visual arts, handles themes in a unique way, reflects the people's innermost wishes and at the same time represents auspicious folk customs.

Today's Chinese Year Pictures should be considered as prints of artistic value with traditional characteristics, forming a bridge between the arts and common people.

One must not judge modern Chinese New Year Pictures with old concepts. Today's Chinese New Year Pictures require an understanding of how the public regards them, and what they want to see in them.

Looking at the selections in this book, one can see that the standards are higher than in past competitions. The themes are broader, vividly portraying our current generation, our current reforms, our people's spirit in building a strong nation. One sees in them the artist's attempt in penetrating deeply into the social psyche, illustrating changes in our society while maintaining traditional characteristics. They are valuable points of reference for all artists.

June, 1988

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