Image: New Year Paintings of the Ch'ing Capital Image: New Year Paintings of the Ch'ing Capital
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Beautiful  Scene for the New Year (New window)

Beautiful Scene for the New Year
Ch'en Shu (1660-1736), Ch'ing dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 96.8 x 47 cm

This painting is a "sketch from life" of a flower setting offered on the Lantern Festival, the middle of the first lunar month marking the end of the New Year's festivities. It depicts an assemblage of chimonanthus, camellia, dahlia, and narcissus, all blossoms associated with the first lunar month and representing the coming warmth of spring in a festive spirit to greet the New Year. In painting the planter, the artist used the method of showing the ground. These plants in a Lung-ch'üan-style ceramic planter appear with an ornamental rock, arranged according to size and color to make a pleasing combination of flowers and bonsai. Next to the planter are lily roots, persimmon, spirit fungus, and an apple, the terms for which in Chinese are homonyms for the auspicious phrase, "May all things go as you wish."

Ch'en Shu (style name Nan-lou, sobriquets Shang-yüan ti-tzu and Fu-an, and the late sobriquet Nan-lou lao-jen) was a native of Chia-hsing in Chekiang province. Innovative in many subjects, her flowers were done with light and elegant washes of color, the style of brushwork similar to that of Ch'en Tao-fu (1483-1544) but more mature and stronger.

 

New Year's  City in Peace (New window)

New Year's City in Peace
Ting Kuan-p'eng (fl. ca. 1708-after 1770), Ch'ing dynasty
Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 30.3 x 233.5 cm


This handscroll depicts festive scenes celebrating the New Year in the countryside, featuring firecrackers, peace drums, various goods, bird and fish merchants, and all kinds of figures and performers, such as peddlers with monkeys, fortune tellers, running boat dancers, and puppeteers. Scholars can be seen sitting beneath pine trees drinking tea and chatting. A large purple-sand teapot is on a red-lacquered tray and blue-and-white bowls are scattered throughout, the vessel with floral decor on a green ground and teapot filled with spring water. The shoulder baskets are filled with foods served in blue-and-white as well as dragon-pattern bowls and plates, all typical of court utensils used in the Ch'ien-lung era (1736-1795). Obviously, this so-called "street scene" is actually taking place at the imperial court with members of the court dressed up like commoners to imitate the outside world.

Ting Kuan-p'eng left court service in 1770 and died shortly thereafter. A native of Shun-t'ien (modern Peking), he entered court service in 1726 and rose to become a first-rank painter in the Ch'ien-lung era. He once learned painting from the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shih-ning, 1688-1766), and his figures were refined and beautiful in color. He was also gifted at traditional tracing techniques, helping to create the new court style of the early Ch'ing dynasty.
Syzygy  of the Sun, Moon, and the Five Planets (New window)

Syzygy of the Sun, Moon, and the Five Planets
Hsü Yang (1712-after 1777), Ch'ing dynasty
Handscroll, ink and colors on paper, 48.9 x 1342.6 cm

On the first day of the first month in the Ch'ien-lung Emperor's 26th year (1761), the Directorate of the Imperial Observatory observed the astronomical phenomenon of the Sun and Moon both rising together and the Five Planets lined up, an event known as a syzygy. Officials therefore predicted it would be a year of peace throughout the land and of a bountiful harvest. Hsü Yang was then ordered to make a painting recording this rare and auspicious omen. Also a description of New Year's Day, civil and military officials are seen entering the court to congratulate the emperor, and people throughout the capital have gone out to greet the New Year. This handscroll depicts the observatory and various courtyard residences in detail as well as archways and gates of the city. There are festive scenes of people in various forms of clothing and transportation, and all sorts of shops and their arches, fully reflecting the appearance of life in Peking at the time.

Hsü Yang, style name Yün-t'ing, was a native of Soochow in Kiangsu province. During the Chien-lung Emperor's first southern inspection tour in 1751, Hsü offered an album to the emperor and was thus able to enter court service. Among his renowned works still surviving are "Flourishing Soochow" and "Ch'ien-lung's Southern Inspection."

Joyous  Celebration at the New Year (New window) Joyous Celebration at the New Year
Yao Wen-han (1713-?), Ch'ing dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 82.4 x 55 cm


This painting depicts a festive family reunion scene during the New Year's holidays. The host and hostess are shown seated solemnly in the main hall as children play gongs, blowpipes, and clappers. They also perform with puppets, set off firecrackers, and mill about the raucous garden setting. Family servants and attendants hold wine jugs or send snacks in the hall and corridor. Women in the building behind busily prepare the New Year's dinner as male servants in the distance work together to hang large lanterns. Pine branches and sesame stalks burn fragrantly in the brazier, while the interior is decorated with a large standing screen of the flowers from the four seasons. Peonies on the red lacquered table give the residence an added sense of auspicious prosperity for the New Year. Yao Wen-han (style name Cho-t'ing) was a native of Shun-t'ien (modern Peking). Hu Ching's Collected Notes on Painting in Our Dynasty records that "Yao Wen-han was good at figures and also specialized at Buddhist and Taoist subjects." He entered the Ju-i Hall at court in 1743 and served for more than forty years, but little is known about when he left the court or died.
Tapestry-Embroidery  of Nine Goats Opening the New Year (New window)

Tapestry-Embroidery of Nine Goats Opening the New Year
Anonymous, Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911)
Hanging scroll, tapestry and embroidery, 218 x 111.7 cm


This hanging scroll includes subjects dealing with auspicious numbers and themes, including "Three Princes" (homonym for"Three T'ai," signifying an auspicious New Year), "Nine Goats"(indicative of a lucky New Year), and the "Three Friends" (of winter--pine, plum blossom, and bamboo). Taken together, they emphasize that "the Nine Goats dispel the cold of winter, and spring returns with the New Year's start." This was a decorative type of picture displayed every year at the Ch'ing imperial court during the New Year. Ch'ing tapestry and embroidery is renowned for its fine weaving and numerous techniques. The tapestry technique of this scroll consists of a blue background and background scenery (colored auspicious clouds and rocks with water), the weaving for the figures, plants, and animals featuring several different tapestry and embroidery techniques. Areas for the plum blossoms, pine needles, and tree trunks are done as tapestry and embroidery on the patterning with touches of brushwork and color washes added. This is a typically decorative style of the Ch'ien-lung reign (1736-1795) with its pursuit of complexity and perfection. The composition is filled with rich designs and patterns, and the arrangement of colors fine and opulent, exuding a joyously festive appearance. This is a representative example combining tapestry, embroidery, and painting.

Activities  of Peace and Joy (New window)

Activities of Peace and Joy
Anonymous, Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911)
Album leaves, ink and colors on silk, 18.5 x 24.3 cm

This album consists of twelve leaves, of which four have been selected for this exhibition. The contents of these selections deal with women and children of the court at the time of the New Year and Lantern Festival. Depicted here are lantern toys in such shapes as an elephant, crane, deer, bat, hawk, rabbit, and the God of Literature. Children are also seen playing with a kite and a shuttlecock, riding a hobbyhorse, playing a game of arrows, and putting on a puppet show. Most of the paintings deal with auspicious imagery often used in various art forms, being folk subjects favored at the New Year. The album bears no signature or seal of the artist, but it was probably done at the Ch'ing court.

Leaf 10: "Deer Lantern"

Two of the children here ride a red and white hobbyhorse. Also some are carrying various mock weapons, such as a halberd and bow-and-arrow. One holds a hawk lantern as the others pull lanterns in the shape of a dog, rabbit, and deer, as if to suggest that they are out on a play hunting trip.

 

 

   
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