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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Culture
A lifelong devotion to Chinese New Year paintings
    2018-February-6  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

A CHERUBIC child holding a big fish, a giant tree bearing golden coins as fruit, and delicate woodblock paintings are all often hung in homes during the Chinese Lunar New Year.

For many Chinese, brightly-colored woodblock paintings, which are hung upon almost every door, window and wall as festival decorations, are limited-time accents. As soon as the parties come to an end, these print works are at once thrown away.

However, these short-lived New Year’s paintings require a year of hard work by the artists, many of whom have devoted their entire lives to this traditional folk art.

Yang Luoshu, a 92-year-old man from Weifang City, Shandong Province, is among those who have fostered a great passion for Chinese Lunar New Year woodblock prints. Yang has worked as a craftsman for 77 years, always polishing his carving skills with each new piece of work.

“When I was young, I often saw my father carving, and I remember being so curious about it,” Yang said. “One day my father was gone for a while. I quickly took up his knife and carved on a woodblock. That was day one of my carving experience.”

Yangjiabu New Year woodblock paintings, a craft which Yang is in love with, emerged during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) around 600 years ago. As a national intangible cultural heritage item, it is now one of China’s three representatives of traditional folk paintings for the New Year, together with Tianjin’s Yangliuqing and Suzhou’s Taohuawu.

Each original woodblock painting requires five steps: sketching outlines, engraving the woodblock, printing, painting and mounting, all done by hand.

Running a centuries-old folk art family workshop named Tongshunde, Yang has carved all kinds of motifs, including flowers, birds, mountains, rivers, and traditional Chinese gods, and was named a “master of folk arts” by UNESCO in 2001.

“Though engraving is hard in general, carving gods is especially difficult, with all the armor and vivid facial expressions. Still, I can manage it,” Yang said.

Being the 19th generation painter in the family, Yang is now working with a dozen experienced craftsmen, and makes around 150,000 New Year paintings every year, which are not only sold in China, but also in countries such as the United States, Singapore and Japan.

For him, the next thing to do is to find qualified successors to make sure the skills are passed down to younger generations.

“There are now dozens of local workshops making woodblock paintings,” Yang said. “However, compared with the prime time 200 years ago, which saw around 300 workshops in business, the number has declined drastically.”

Besides holding exhibitions and seminars at home and abroad, Yang has also taken several apprentices, among whom is his elder son Yang Fujiang, who has been carving now for 42 years.

“I had thought about finding another job when I was younger,” the young Yang said. “However, my father told me about the precarious status of woodblock paintings. As his son, I felt a responsibility was on my shoulders.”

His father was very strict.

“I work eight to nine hours per day,” the young Yang said.

To the Yang family, although modern printing techniques have boosted efficiency, the spirit of the traditional craft goes beyond comparison.

“The craft is sacred to me,” said Yang Luoshu.

Nevertheless, the old Yang realizes that something must change to ensure handmade New Year paintings live on.

“We are now thinking about development, allowing the prints to be more creative,” he said.

Apart from making wall calendars and thread-bound booklets, they have also put local stories in their work.

“We have dug out traditional fairy tales and depicted them in our paintings, so that our Chinese culture will be appreciated,” the father said.

“The craft will live on. Of that I’m pretty sure,” said the son. (Xinhua)

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