Folk Image - CNTO
Home The Culture Folk Image

Folk Image

Folk Image

Woodblock Prints

Perhaps the most common of all Chinese folk arts are woodblock prints. They are called nianhua in Chinese. This means “New Year’s pictures,” because they are always put up around the house during the New Year Festival. Woodblock prints are very bright and colorful posters, with thousands of different kinds of designs. They have been made since the 11th century. People inChina use them for two reasons: to bring good luck and for decoration. Chinese people call buying nianhua “inviting in the gods” because pictures of gods are some of the most popular kinds of prints.

In the past woodblock prints were made by men during the winter. First an artist would draw a design; the design was then carved into a piece of wood. Next, the wood was used to stamp the design and other wood blocks were used to press different colors of ink onto pieces of paper. Now they are made in large factories and millions are sold every year.

There are two types of popular prints. One popular print has pictures of gods that people use in religious ceremonies. These are often burned at the end of the ceremony as an offering. In the past people also used woodblock printing methods to make paper money (or “spirit money”) to be offered to gods, ghosts, and ancestors.

Other woodblock prints are used to decorate homes and bring good luck. Some of the images represented include: people working, famous Chinese tales, lucky kinds of fruit, and wholesome children holding coins. They are displayed all year long until the start of the New Year when new prints are posted.



  • 01
  • 02
  • 03
  • 04
  • 05
  • 06
  • 07
  • 08
  • 09
  • 010
  • 011
  • 012
  • 013
  • 014
  • 015

1 copyPainting of Hundred Good-lucks

The drawing illustrates two fairy boys in splendid clothing, one standing on one leg with hair worn in two buns and the horsetail whisky in hand and the other standing behind, clenching his fist for "Hundred Good-lucks" and holding a brilliant lotus. The figures are clearly and beautifully painted and the clothing is splendidly colored. It is a rare edition of the Chinese New Year pictures.

2 copyZhang Xian shooting a dog
the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), Yang Liuqing, Tianjin

The picture illustrates, Zhang Xian shooting a black dog, with young children round below, indicating to protect the children from natural disasters.

3 copyFive Children Contending for Championship
the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), Yangliuqing, Tianjin

In the picture, five children are struggling for the lotus, implying that the five children contend for championship, that the children pass the imperial competitive examinations, or that the children are the auspicious symbols of prosperity. The children in the picture have different manners and, thus, it is one of the most vavored pictures by the ordinary people.

4 copy"All the Busiest"
the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), Yangliuqing,Tianjin

The picture depicts a lively scene during a folk festival. Children are playing musical instru-ments while singing, presenting a happy atmosphere.

5 copyChild Riding Rooster (also called "Good Luck")
the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), Xingjiang, Shanxi Province

The pictures are printed in Xinjiang of Shanxi Province. In the Chinese language, "rooster"and "good luck" are pronounced the same. The picture pasted onto door has implications of good luck and great fortune. It is one of the most favorite New Year pictures of the folks.