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.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

China Clothing Story: Cheongsam (Qipao, Chinese Dress)

China Clothing: Cheongsam (Qipao, Chinese Dress)

Qipao (cheongsam), chi-pao, Chinese dress is a close-fitting woman's dress with high neck and slit skirt or a sheath with a slit skirt, originating from female traditional clothes for Man Minority, improving in the first half of 20st century. Cheongsam once is one of national formal attires by Republic of China Government in 1929, not belong to the system of Han clothes.

Cheongsam improves based on traditional clothes for Man Minority and western cultures in the first half of 20st century. It is popular from the end of 1920s to the end of 1940s, changing in different styles such as height of collars, length of sleeves and length of vent lines, getting rid of the limitations of old patterns. Golden time for cheongsam starts from 1930s to 1940s, the most glorious period for the Chinese women’s dress, it features with slim and long line, in accordance with the European popular style. At the end of the thirties, the improved Chinese dress even close to the western in method of cutting and structure, more fitting with chest dart and waist dart.

Cheongsam in Chinese Movies

"In the Mood for Love"

The Beauty Remains

The Purple Butterfly


Blood Brothers

Lust Caution

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

China Folk Food Story: Jiaozi (Chinese Dumplings)

China Folk Food: Jiaozi (Chinese Dumplings)

Jiaozi (Chinese Dumplings), known as Chinese meat ravioli and a substantial stuffed dumpling, is one of Chinese traditional food, as well as a popular China folk food for China's main nationality, with the history of more than one thousand and eight hundred years.

As a cooked wheaten food, Jiaozi has wheat flour ski, vegetable, meat or meat and vegetable mixing as the filling wrapped, shaping half round or half-moon, small and thin ski.

Customs of Jiaozi
During the Spring Festival, the Chinese have the tradition to eat dumplings, especially in northern China (some other traditions in some southern areas) to celebrate the Lunar New Year, wishing good luck. In the Huanghe Valley, it is a tradition of eating jiaozi on New Year's Eve, Shousui (observe the year out on New Year's Eve) for thousands of years.

As historical documents, this convention dates from Dynasty Ming and becomes a popular and fixed since Dynasty Qing. On the eve of New Year, it is the alternation of new and old days. The Chinese call this moment “Jiaozi”, the same pronunciation as the China dumplings in Chinese and would like to have some ceremonies to celebrate it, praying good luck.

Folktales of Jiaozi
Zhang Zhongjing and Jiao’er
Jiaozi, primitive name “Jiao’er”, is invented by Zhang Zhongjing, Chinese medicine-holy as the legend. On one Winter Solstice (22nd solar term), Zhang returned to his hometown from Changsha and found many poor people suffering from hunger and cold, even someone’s ears have frozen bad. With typhoid epidemic, many folks freeze to death. Zhang cooks mutton and some herbs on the pot and cuts them into pieces, wrapping with flour as ear-shaped “jiao’er”. They dispatch two and one soup for each folk to warm up and cure the badly frozen ears, dispelling cold.

Nuwa Made Man
One legend says Jiaozi marks the beginning of the heaven and the earth genesis and the ending of chaotic. Other legend says that Nuwa(the goodness makes man)makes man with earth and the earth man easily get ears frozen for cold weather. Nowa get their ears pierced , fixing with slim thread and make them bite the other end of the thread. The folks wrap the wheat flour into ear-shape with Xian (filling, same pronunciation with thread in Chinese) in memory of Nuwa’s great achievements. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chinese Money Story: Chinese Renminbi Currency

Renminbi is the legal curreny symbol of mainland of the People's Republic of China (PRC) , which is designed, printed and issued by the People's Bank of China, CNY(China Yuan)in ISO 4217, normally short for RMB, currency symbol "¥", pronouncing "YUAN". As for the materials, RMB refers to mental coins and paper currency, both circulating of equal value.

Since the foundation of the People's Bank of China on 1st December 1948, it has issued five sets of Renminbi, including paper money, mental money, commemorative coins and noble metal commemorative coins.

The first set of RMB China is used before the foundation of PRC when the national emblem not ensure, Since the second set issued on 1st March 1955, all are designed with the national emblem, but different in specific position and color.

On 1st October 1999, the fifth set issues successively: 1 Jiao (coin), 5 Jiao (coin), 1 Yuan (both coin and paper money), 5 Yuan, 10 Yuan, 20 Yuan, 50 Yuan and 100 Yuan.

Tourist Places on the Back of RMB (the fifth edition)

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
"Three Pools Mirroring the Moon" is the of landmark of West Lake, Hangzhou, with perfect matching of natural landscapes and architectures, Three stone towers name for "Three Tan" (three pools), candles in the towers light in autumn and lights, moonlight and their reflection on the lake enhance each other's beauty.

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon on the Back of 1 Yuan

Mount Tai
The main peak of Mount Tai and the carving “五岳独尊” show together with the method of montage, and you won’t see them in the actual scene. Mount Tai is the highest mountain in Chinese culture, although only 1546 meters high, where the king offer sacrifices to gods or ancestors.

Mount Tai on the back of 5 Yuan
Yangtze Three Gorges
Yangtze Three Gorges is selected as the RMB pattern for three times: the representative Wuxia Gorge in the fourth ("visitors from all over the world have admired Twelve Peaks” lining the banks of Wu Gorge,), and the crane shot of Three Gorges in the fifth.

Yangtze Three Gorges on 10 Yuan
Landscape of Guilin
Illustrating the 20 Renminbi note, the landscape of Guilin is the Karst Mountains are famously beautiful in China, karst landform, mainly consisting of limestones, featured with the carved figures by water. 

Landscape of Guilin on the back of 20 Yuan
The Potala Palace (in Lhasa, Tibet)
The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet is located in Mount Red of Lhasa Valley, the holy land of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Potala Palace on 50 Yuan
Great Hall of the People
Great Hall of the People is located at the west of Tian'an Square, against National Museum. On the note, you can find the stone pillar on the left where gazing at the opposite, standing in front of the museum.

Great Hall of the People on the back of 100 Yuan

Friday, 2 November 2012

Chinese Folk Art Story: Chinese Knotting

 Chinese Folk Art: Chinese Knotting

Chinese knot (Chinese knotting) is a kind of knotting developed in ancient China, dating from the sewing knotting in the Old Stone Age, used as a decorative handcraft accessory nowadays. It names for Chinese knot for exquisite design, of a long history, compliance with China traditional decoration custom and aesthetic standards.

Each knotting is made with a rope and each basis knot name after its shape and implied meaning (according to shape or pronunciation). Various knots can combine or match other decorations.
Long before, the Chinese have learnt how to tie the knot and knotting is an important part in their life, mainly for quite useful skills, e.g. sewing, clothing accessories, and even some recording method.

In Zhou Dynasty, Chinese knotting often is decorated with jade, the pattern of knotting is shown at the bronzes crafts in Warring States Era and in Qing Dynasty, and Chinese knots are really regarded as Chinese traditional folk art. Today, we usually can see it as interior decorative finishing, gifts among friends or individual belongs.

The basis Chinese knots are as followed, according to different style and knotting methods.
1. Double-coin Knots: shape like half overlaid of two Chinese ancient coins.


2. Button Knots: often used as to tight clothes.

3. Pipa Knots: developed from double-thread button knots and used as the decorative button of Tang suits (Chinese-style clothing) and cheong-sam (Chinese-style dress).

4. Tuanjin Knots: shape like a kind of flowers (Tuanjin), knotting is small, beautiful and not easy to loose, usually decorated with jewelry and stones.

5. Half-Windsor Knots (Cross Knots): shape like two Chinese characters “口”and “十”.

6. Eternal Knots: inherit from cross knots, one of the original knots on behalf of good luck. The single eternal knot is easy to change when under heavy weight and fixing with glue is better.

7. Wanzi Knots: the line run looks like the signal representing Buddhism.


8. Panchang Knots (Long drive knots): Shape like “Panchang”, one of eight Buddhist's skulls, of closely symmetric patterns.

 9. Sunk Panel Knots: closely knotted, shape like ancient sunk panel, available of weaving as necklaces, bracelets and waistbands.


 10. Square Knots: one string or something as the roller and wrap it with the two ends of the other string, wide availability.

11. Shuanglian Knots (Double Joint Knots): two single knot set together, solid, hard to loose, and imply combination and always constant.

 12. Creeping Oxalis Knots (Chinese butterfly knots): three loops look like the leaves of creeping oxalis, which is the national flower of Ireland, and mean good fortune as one wishes.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Chinese Folk Art Story: Oiled Paper Umbrellas

China Oil-paper Umbrella Story

Oil-paper umbrella is a kind of oiled paper umbrella, originating in China, with cotton paper cover painted original boiled tung oil (China wood oil). Now, you can see the paper umbrellas in other countries and regions in Asia, such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.
China paper umbrellas

In Chinese traditional culture, oil-paper umbrellas symbolize good luck for fertility for the similar pronunciation of “having a baby” (有子), Xi’niang (the women assisting the bride on the wedding) will shelter the bride with red paper umbrella when the latter getting out of sedan chair on the traditional wedding ceremony, avoiding evil spirits.
Oiled paper umbrellas is the daily rain umbrellas for the Chinese, with the history of more than 1000 year, all made out of the natural materials, completely hand-made, also known as the earliest umbrella in the world,

History of Chinese Oil-paper Umbrella

It is invented by Yunshi (Ms. Yun), Luban’s wife (Luban is one of the greatest Chinese ancient wood master in the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.). Mr. Lu often works outside, always getting wet in the rainy days and his wife wants to make some shelter against the rain. She split bamboo into pieces, covering animal skis on the slim pieces, shaping like a pavilion while looking like a stick. This “umbrella” closes and opens freely.
After the invention of paper by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty, the Chinese use the waterproof boiled tung oil on the umbrella cover. Refined scholars would like to poetize and draw on the cover for entertainment and feeling expressing. In Song Dynasty, oiled paper umbrella once calls as green oiled paper umbrella.

Manufacturing Method of Oil-paper Umbrella

Step 1: Choosing the proper bamboos
Step 2: Making umbrella framework: slipping bamboos, soaking them in the water, drying in the sunshine, and then drilling, threading, fixing umbrella handle and rods.
Step 3: stamping the clipped paper on the framework, trimming, falling into a pattern, and exposure to the sun.
Step 4: Drawing the pattern on the umbrella cover, drying in the sun.
Step 5: Painting boiled tung oil, drying in the sun.
More about definition of China oil-paper umbrella, you can turn to wiki:

Ready to China Story: Not Just a China Tour

Do you like travelling? Maybe yes, may no, whatever. But do you like to know some fresh and funny stories different from your familiar world? for example, China stories? Wow, you can get some info or reference no matter whethe you have the plan of China Tour. The long long story begins now.^^