Tag Archives: New Year

Studies on New Year Pictures in China

James Flath’s research focuses on Chinese print and popular culture, and on Chinese architectural heritage.

The Cult of Happiness: Nianhua, Art, and History in Rural North China

封面James A. Flath, 2004, The Cult of Happiness: Nianhua, Art, and History in Rural North China, UBC Press. 288 p. Sample chapter.

History and art come together in this definitive discussion of the Chinese woodblock print form of nianhua, literally “New Year pictures.” By analyzing the role of nianhua first in the home and later in commercial and political theatres, James Flath relates these artworks to the social, cultural, and political milieu of North China as it was between the late Qing dynasty and the early 1950s. Among the first studies in any field to treat folk art and folk print as historical text, The Cult of Happiness offers original insight into popular conceptions of domesticity, morality, gender, society, modernity, and the transformation of the genre as a propaganda tool under communism. An extraordinary account of the cultural life of rural North China over the period. Read on line

  • Reviewed by Craig Clunas,  China Review International, Volume 12, Number 1, Spring 2005, pp.97-99 (Article) DOI: 10.1353/cri.2005.0123. Avalaible on Project MUSE
  • Reviewed by Ralph C. Croizier, University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 75, Number 1, Winter 2006, pp. 345-347 (Article) DOI: 10.1353/utq.2006.0042 . Avalaible on Project MUSE

The Nianhua Gallery


This site is dedicated to the visual culture of pre-modern rural China, and through that visual culture it is hoped that readers will gain a stronger appreciation for how people lived and celebrated in the domestic Chinese setting. Most of the prints found on this site are reprints – meaning that they were printed in modern times from wooden printing blocks that were in use during the early part of the 20th century. The prints, therefore, date from the 1980s and 90s, but they do accurately reflect much older designs and themes. The prints originate with the traditional nianhua printing centres of Yangjiabu in Shandong province, Zhuxianzhen in Henan, Fengxiang in Shaanxi and Mianzhu in Sichuan. Although these centres had wide influence, one should not assume that the visual culture of one region applies to another region as well. In fact, one of the goals of this site is to explore how visual culture was, or was not shared between one part of the country and another. In general, however, the reader may also find that once regional differences have been accounted for, China did enjoy a remarkably unity in visual culture despite the extremes of geography and regionalism.

See also

  • James Flath, ‘Social Themes in Yangliuqing Nianhua of the 1930s’ Arts Asiatique 66, 2012
  • New Year Prints (and chubby babies) on Chinese.posters.net

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

More Posts - Website

New Year’s tradition spurs a debate over air pollution


  • “Among all the ancient traditions that Chinese people observe during the lunar New Year, setting off firecrackers is the most controversial. Originally used to “drive bad luck away,” firecrackers have been an intrinsic part of the Chinese New Year celebration for thousands of years. Yet, their contribution to air and noise pollution has always incurred debates about whether they should be banned. This year, the debate has been intensified by the severe air quality crisis many cities faced right before the festival.

China Isn’t Apple’s Only Supplier
A Confusing Flowchart for the Confused Chinese Traveler
Chinese Web Users Weigh in on North Korea’s Nuclear Test

Towards the end of January, citizens in Beijing endured several waves of what many Western media outlets dubbed “airpocalypse.” On January 29, the air quality index released by the U.S. embassy in Beijing peaked at 526, beyond “hazardous” and literally off the charts. Responding to the environmental disaster, many Web users spontaneously advocated to stop setting off firecrackers during the upcoming festival. A comment tweeted by Shi Shusi(@石述思), the editor-in-chief of the Workers’ Daily, is representative. “Entering middle age, I suddenly realize that the majority of my family consists of seniors and children. So although I’ve loved firecrackers since childhood, I decided to quit using them for the sake of both tranquility for my family and clearer air. I request earnestly that everyone set off fewer firecrackers, and while doing it, try to keep your distance from seniors and children.”

As the anti-firecracker web users’ voices multiplied, accounts of official media joined the campaign. China Central Television’s Economics and Finance Channel (@央视财经) is one of them. “The air quality in Beijing has become poorer and poorer as we approach the New Year. If we still set off firecrackers, the air quality will not be not restorable. Here, our channel – Jacqueline Nivard

Tags: china, tradition, debate, pollution, atlantic

by: Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

More Posts - Website