Saturday, 22 December 2012

Chinese Door-god: Chinese Folk Arts

Chinese door-god is the god guarding families away from devils for folks and Taoism, always you will see door-god in the New Year pictures for good luck and wishes in the New Year, as a part of Chinese traditional folk arts. When Spring Festival's eve or the day before it, each and every family purchases Spring Festival couplets (pasted on gateposts or door panels), stamping couplets and pictures with door-god on the door. It is the first thing in the New Year.

As the origin of door-god, there are also some legends and popular stories. After Xuanwu Gate Incident, Li Shimin (Prince of Qin, Emperor Taizong in Tang dynasty later) killed all families of his brothers: Li Jiancheng(Crown Prince) and Li Yuanji (Prince of Qi), even babies. At night, Li Shimin often heard bricks and tiles throwing, crying and yelling when sleeping, restless at whole nights. He often had nightmares, dreaming his brothers of coming to kill him with ghosts and monsters and quite feared, sleepless. Therefore, he ordered his two generals: Qin Shubao and Yuchi Jingde to guard with weapons, and then he can sleep at ease. However, the guarding without sleep for long time made these two generals sick, so Li Shimin ordered drawing them on the pictures, stamping on the door to frighten ghosts and devils. This is just the origin of door-god.

Another is recorded in Journey to the West (Pilgrimage to the West): an old dragon of Jing-river bet with a fortune teller, making mistake in heaven. The Jade Emperor sent Wei Zheng to oversee the execution of the old dragon. One day before that, old dragon begged Li Shimin to intercede for him and Li promised it. One the second day, Li asked Weizheng to play the game of go in the palace. Wei dozed off and killed the old dragon in the dream. The dragon hated Li of breaking his promise, and always made troubles in the palace as ghosts. Wei sent Qin Shubao and Yuchi Jingde to guard with weapons, standing before the door. Old dragon dare not make it. Li asked drawers to draw them, stamping their pictures on the door, also in effect. Therefore, such action also spreads in the folks. Qin Shubao and Yuchi Jingde become door-god.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Shadow Play-Chinese Folk Arts Story

Shadow play, or lampplay (leather-silhouette show) originates in China, and then goes round the world, one of popular Chinese puppet shows for folks. The silhouette figures are made of animal skis or paper panels, operated to perform with the lighting, behind of white curtain. When performing, the artists operate the figures, telling stories with the local music and tune.

Shadow play is an ancient Chinese folk art and Beijing folks call it donkey leather-silhouette show (Lv Pi Ying), dating from the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 24)in Shaanxi, famous popular in Dynasty Qing in Hebei. The painted colors mainly refer to red, yellow, blue, green and black. In the old times when Medias are not developed such as movies and televisions, shadow play is once quite popular.

Regarding the legend of the beginning of shadow play, Ms. Li died of illness around more than two thousand years ago, who is the favorite wife of the emperor wudi of Han dynasty. He was drunken in the memory of his wife, even ignoring the state affairs. Minister Li Shaoweng came across a kid playing his doll and its shadow seems vivid on the ground one day. Li cut the Ms. Li’s figure with cotton fabrics, painting colors and fixed wood poles in figure’s feet and arms. When night falls, he set up a curtain and lighted candles, performing the shadow play. The emperor was quite glad to appreciate it, comforting him of his sick for Ms. Li. This love story is recorded in “History of the Han Dynasty”, regarded as the origins of shadow shows.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Chinese Kites-Chinese Folk Art Story

The invention of Chinese kites involve with various stories and legends. It is said Modi, a great Chinese thinker and statesman in ancient time makes wood birds with three years and Lu Ban improves the materials for kites manufacturing with bamboo, the originator of architecture, further developing into today’s kites. Someone say Cao Xueqin is also a famous kite maker who is the renowned author of “Dream of the Red Chamber”.

Kites are the earliest aircrafts in the sky and apply to the same principle of modern airplane in theory. The pulling force of ropes causes relative motion with air, leading to the lift force upward.

Story of Bamboo Hat and Leaves
Bamboo hat is an ancient tool against rain and sunstroke, simple and easy to make for materials. One day, one farmer was working, suddenly big wind blew off his bamboo hat. He hurried to chase and caught the rope. Fortunately, the lope is quite long and hat flies like a kite in the sky. Farmer has much fun for that and often taught others to fly hat in the future, evolving into today’s flying kites.

In southern, the ancients adored the blowing of leaves in the sky and had the fun to fly leaves with linen, later developing into kite flying. As for Gaoshan nationality in Taiwan and Li nationality in Hainan, they make kite with the leaves of breadfruit trees in early times.


Story of Sailing Boat and Tent
Human being has a long history for the usage of wood boats, dating back to more than 2000 years ago, and then sailing boats. It is said that they have had sailing boats in the period of Yu the Great. Sail powers by wind and people flied kites according to the same principle.

Regarding tents in the northern, people say the earliest kites are made based on the phenomenon of blowing tents in the violent wind, gradually developing into entertainment tool later.

Story of Flying Bird
Driven by the passion for flying birds, kites are invited for seeking good life. According to the history materials, Modi made a wood bird for three years, however, it was broken only flying one day. Such “wood bird” is the earliest kite in China.

Story of Li Ye
Kites are invited by Li Ye in the period of Five Dynasties. According to recording, Li made kites in palace, capable of flying and whistling when wind flowing into the bamboo hole in the sky.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Chinese Masks—Chinese Folk Art Story

Chinese masks date back to more than 4000 years ago. As for masks, China is one of the countries of the longest history, of the widest spread and the most types over the world.

Mask culture is a kind of international culture in the world. In China, mask culture not only has a long history, of rich concepts and varies from regions and nationalities. Chinese masks are given the reflections of belief, customs, wishes and aesthetic ideas.

Mask art is the ancient culture, resulting from development of human mind and religious sentiment, showing the unique mystique of original arts, rich imagination and exquisite skills. During the long development period, Chinese mask art mixes, depends on affects with primitive dance, witchcraft, totem worship, folk songs and dances and traditional Chinese opera.

Typical Chinese Masks:
Peking Opera Masks, Traditional Chinese Opera Masks, Tibetan Masks and Nuo-masks.

Peking Opera Masks:
It is related to the special makeup method, painted with different color on face based on personalities, disposition and characters in Peking Opera, developing since around 150 years ago.

Traditional Chinese Opera Masks: Makes use in traditional Chinese Opera.

Tibetan Masks:
Tibetan masks are involved with Ancestor worship and totem worship in religious beliefs in Tibet, mainly referring to masks for Tiaoshen (a kind of dance used to express stories of Gods and ghosts), hanging masks (of Gods and ghosts) in temples or beams, Tibetan Opera Masks.


As the characterization of Nuo opera, Nuo mask also reflects the original worship consciousness, religious consciousness and folklore in Guizhou vividly and intensively.


Sunday, 25 November 2012

West Lake (Hangzhou) -- Chinese Scenic Spot Story

West Lake, located in southwest of City Hangzhou, is well known for beautiful lakes and places of interest. As one of the first national 5A-level scenic area in China, it is also one of China Top Ten Scenic Spots, regarded as “an earthly paradise”, free of charges for visitors.

West Lake is a famous lagoon, once named “Wulinshui Lake” and “Xizi Lake”, surrounding by mountains at three sides, covering the area of 6.5 square kilometers, around 3.2 kilometers from south to north and 2.8 kilometers from east to west. In the lake, there are three islands: Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Mid-lake Pavilion and Ruan Gong Islet.

Ten Sceneries of West Lake (traditional ones since Southern Song Dynasty):苏堤春晓 Spring Dawn at Su Causeway
平湖秋月 Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake
花港观鱼 Viewing Fish at Flower Pond
柳浪闻莺 Orioles Singing in the Willows
三潭印月 Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
双峰插云 Twin Peaks Piercing in Cloud
南屏晚钟 Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill
雷峰夕照 Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow
曲院风荷 Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden
断桥残雪 Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge

Legend of West Lake
Mentioned the name of West Lake, it is said that Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix find a piece of white jade on the fairy island along the Milky Way long time ago. They refine it for many years and finally make it a shinning pearl, shinning the places where trees keep green and flowers always bloom.

However, the Queen of Heaven knows it and sends divine troops descending from Heaven to grab it. Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix ask for the pearl, but the Queen refuses to return, and then they fight. Suddenly, the Queen loosens her grip, the pearl falling off the earth, becoming sparkling West Lake. Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix also come to the earth, becoming Mount Jade Dragon (Jade Mountain) and Mount Phoenix to protect West Lake forever.

Spring Dawn at Su Causeway
Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge
Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake

Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Chinese Folk Art Story: Chinese Paper Cutting

Chinese paper cutting, Jianzhi in Chinese, is one of the China ancient folk arts, dating back to the 6th century. Both paper-cut for window decoration and cutting painting belong to paper cutting, differing in cutting tools: scissors and nicking tool respectively. As a hollowing-out art, it makes the feel of being thorough and artistic enjoyment., available shown with various materials, such as paper, gold and silver foil, bark, leaves, fabrics and leather.

We are married

Chinese paper cutting strongly expresses the local regional features:Shaanxi paper-cutting pasted on panes emphasizes the style of being simple and bold; Hebei and Shanxi paper cutting outlines pretty and bright colors; Yixing cutting is outstanding in being gorgeous and neat; and Nantong cutting stresses being beautiful and exquisite. Although easy cutting and simple design, paper cutting fully reflects the life concepts, of strong folk features, of the sketch of Chinese rural folk arts.

Since the invitation of paper in Dynasty Han, paper cutting develops and get popular. Paper is the materials easy to mildew and rot, the people will not store it as treasures and cut it again if damaging. In China northwestern where a few rainfall and dry climate, paper will not easily mildew and rot. This is also one of the important reasons why the cutting in the Northern Dynasties is found in Xinjiang Turpan region.

paper cutting-cock

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Chinese Idiom Stories: Nanke Dream (Alnaschar's Dream)

Nanke dream, a Chinese idiom from “Legend of Prefecture Chief Nanke”, refers to the story of a man who dreamed that he became the governor of Nanke in the Kingdom of the Ants and means an illusory joy or an empty dream. also known as a fond dream and Alnaschar's dream.


At the alternative period of Dynasty Sui and Tang, a man named Chun Yuzun lives in Guangling. On his birthday, his relatives and friends come to celebrate and he is pleased, drunken and slept under a big locust tree in the court.

In his dream, he has arrived in Kingdom Da Huai’an, just when they hold an exam in the capital. Yu applies for the qualification to attend the exam and performs well in poetry writing, ranking No.1. In the final imperial examination (presided over by the emperor). The emperor likes him for his striking appearance, appointing him of Number One Scholar (title conferred on the one who came first in the highest imperial examination) and betroths his daughter to him before long. Their marriage is sweet and happy; the princess is quite considerate and filial to parents, giving birth to five sons and two daughters.

Later, Yu is dispatched to County Nanke as Prefecture Chief (governor) where he is beloved by the people for twenty years. During this period, his subordinates are honest and diligent, the emperor appreciates him very much. His five sons all have title of nobility and daughters marry to princes and marquises, highly honored in this kingdom.

Kingdom Da Huai’an is attracted by the neighbor country, defeated several times, unable to counterattack. The emperor is angry, ordering Yu to lead the army to fight, upon the advice of the prime minister. However, Yu knows little of military science, losing and then his wife dies of illness. When returning to the capital, the emperor is so angry to put his sons in jail, sending him back to his hometown without any investigation. Yu yells, waking up.

Soon, Yu sees an ant hole in the tree, where there are some palaces and fortresses made of soil. He suddenly realizes what he experienced is just a dream and the kingdom is the ant hole actually.
Yu recalls what happens in Nanke in his dream, considering the impermanence of life and all wealth and honor easily gone. He lives in seclusion, converting to superstitious sects and secret societies finally.