A new year wood block print of the God of Wealth, Zhou Gong Ming. It is believed that Zhou was born in humble family in the Qing dynasty. As a young he worked as a labourer for a wood merchant, being honest, generous and hard working he was popular. Soon he was able to start his own wood business and accumulated a good deal of wealth. Zhou would lend money to those who need them; one merchant borrowed some money and made a lost at a natural disaster, Zhou only asked him to return a pair of chopstick for the money owned. At time of war, Zhou used his own money to fund an army in support of his country and headed the army himself. He bravery was well known and even tamed a troubled tiger as a pet. In most of the God of wealth icon, this black tiger is at his company, here you can see it half hidden inside his coat. Because of his generosity and bravery he was worshipped after his death and named the God of Wealth.
Click here to see our other items of the God of Wealth and the mystical version of his life.
This Yang Liu Qing print is about the story “Wenji Reurning to Han”.
Wenji, was the daughter of the scholar Cai Yong, equally well learnt she was tributed to have revived some important ancient literature that was lost during the war. Wenji though has a rather tough life; her first husband Wei passed away and during the war she was kidnapped by the Huns tribe and made to be the queen of the Hun king. The king treated her well, they had children and soon Wenji though missing home was well settled in Hun.
Meanwhile her father Cai Yong was jailed and died for his support of a declined politician. The story would have ended here if emperor Cao Cao has not suddenly missed his friend Cai Yong and thought of his daughter. Emperor Cao requested for her return to Han, though unwilling the Hun king dared not disobey and reluctantly send the mother of his child home to Han. Feeling the sorrow as she departed her Hun family, Wenji wrote the poem “Eighteen Stanzas for a Barbarian Reed Leaf Pipe”
Happy to see her, Emperor Cao Cao felt bad that she is all alone and without a family so he arranged for her to be wedded to an official named Dong. Unfortunately, Dong committed some crime and received a death sentence. Wenji fearing she will lose yet another husband went to see Cao Cao and begged for his pardon. Moved by her action, Cao Cao ordered for Dong’s release and chatted with her about her father’s literature. Wenji told him that all the 4000 odd books were destroyed during the war but she could still recite 400 out of the 4000. Cao Cao was excited to record the lost literature and Wenji wrote them down word for word.
Click here to see our other Yang Liu Qing prints.
There are many door gods, the most famous and the original ones are Qin Qiong and Wei Chi Gong. The two generals have been keeping the ghosts away from the imperial court. the Tang Emperor felt sorry for their long shifts and ordered portraits to be put up on the doors to give them a well deserved break. Click here for the full story. Traditional Chinese doors comes in pairs and a print of the individual door god would be posted on both doors. This particular prints has two door gods, the one with the white face on the left is Qin Qiong (門丞) and Wei Chi Gong (戶尉) is on the right, this print is made for single door.
The four words on the print “門丞戶尉” refers to the two door gods, but funny enough with the four words mixed up as “門尉戶丞” it became a Taoist spell for healing the sick. The procedure apparently goes like this (please don’t try this at home);
take a rooster with lush feathers,
hold a knife with your right hand and the rooster on the left,
go to the house of the sick,
inside of the house take 3 steps and on each step say the spell,
(門尉戶丞, so and so’s sickness, expel at once, promptly take the order)
then put the head of the rooster in the mouth of the patient 3 times,
take the knife and draw blood from the rooster’s comb,
mixed the blood with 100ml of white spirit for the patient to drink.
… if the patient was not very sick before … he probably would be now …
This is a black and white line print from the Yang Jia Bu school of new year print. The Yang Jia Bu school is set in a small village in the Shan Dong province, it is most flourished in the Qing dynasty. The school is famous for the subject matter of the prints, new subjects are added yearly with reflection to the society and as time goes by became a source of documented life of the commons.
The two phrases on the print, “花能解語 晚玉生香” has been quoted in a few of the notable Chinese literature, The Romance of The West Chamber, Water Margin, The Golden Lotus and The Dream of the Red Chamber. The phrase were praises to a woman; a woman can be as beautiful as a flower but the flower cannot understand words, a woman can be as beautiful as a piece of jade but jade is without fragrance.
This painting consists of illustration of the epic Ming dynasty novel “Journey To The West” which is described the journey monk Xuan Zang and his three disciples Sun Wu Kong (monkey), Zu Ba Jie (pig) and Sha Jing (saint banished to the mortal world) took to the West to find the holy scripts.
I remembered as a child, the novel has been an entire summer’s entertainment.
Here is one of the many adventure described in the book.
The title of this wood block print is called “Buddha of the West Sky”, referring to Siddhattha Gotama of India. The idea of the West Sky is complex, in the early days the sun is believed to be a godly object; raising from the east, watching us on the day and going away and setting on the west. It is believed that while we sleeping the sun will be watching over in the west sky. With Buddhism introduced to China from India, a country to the south west, India, the West Sky, is the place where the truth, the important scripts are. Monks, notably Xuanzang (depicted in the novel the Monkey King), went to India to find enlightenment. The West Sky symbolizes a cleansed soul and mind, a nirvana world.
This old Yang Liu Qing print, depicted a scene from a Tang dynasty poem, 商山早行 Morning Journey At Shang Shan.
After a restless night thinking of my home town, I woke up with the hurrying bells of the inn.
The rooster crow at the frailing moon, on the frost cover bridge left the footprints of the travelers.
The down hill road is covered by wilting plants, orange flower shines out on the inn wall.
Seeing the sunrise, I thought of my dreams of ansers returning to the pond, maybe too I can see my family soon.
The people on the print, however, described another story;
I ride a donkey and look up to those who ride a horse, but looking at the cart pusher I feel content.
This birthday print is filled with blessing symbols -
God of Longevity who is holding a cane on one hand and the Buddha’s hand fruit on the other hand.
The lady of behind is Ma Gu, the female God of Longevity with a basket full of magical plants. Unlike the God of Longevity who has an appearance of an old man with a protruding forehead, Ma Gu is portrayed as a beautiful girl in her late teens. In the legend, every year on the 3rd of lunar March, on the birthday of the Queen Mother of the West, Ma Gu will give her best wishes.
Lastly, the child saint carrying a basket full of longevity peaches, also a well known theme for birthday blessings.
Unlike the birthday scroll being a respectable birthday present for the elderly lady that would be held around birthday time, this is a Mian Zhu new year print that is pasted on the wall on Chinese New Year and to be replaced yearly.
This embroidery captured a scene from the legend Madame White Snake, the novel Jing Shi Tong Yan from the late Ming dynasty. The story was set in the West Lake of Hang Zhou in the period of the Sung dynasty. The serpent spirit of the white snake and her friend green fish subordinate transformed themselves into 2 pretty girls; Bai (white) Su Zhen and Qing Qing (green). Bai fell in love with the Xu Xian and used her magical power got married to him. As time goes by, many strange incident happened because of Bai and Qing. Xu Xian was approached by monk Fa Hai who told him the truth about his wife being a serpent spirit and gave him a monk’s bowl. As Xu Xian place the bowl over his wife’s head, Bai and Qing returned to their original selves. Monk Fa Hai took the bowl with the two spirits and build a Lei Feng pagoda on top of them.
A more romantic story has been adapted for opera, movies where the true love of the white snake is celebrated and the monk became a busybody.
To see the same scene as the embroidery, go 10 minutes into the movie.
As for the Lei Feng pagoda, it was believed that the brick used for building the pagoda has the power of healing, people began to steal the brick, grind it into powder and use it for medicine. 950 year later in 1924, the pagoda fell under its own weight … wonder if the white snake and the green fish manage to escape. A new pagoda was rebuild in 2002.
This is a Yang Liu Qing wood block print portraying the story of the fearless Song dynasty warrior Di Qing (2nd left). The story has it that Di Qing and Liu Qing (1st left) of North Song was send by the Emperor to pacify the uprising to the west of the country. Unfortunately the army got lost and ended up in a wrong country, Dan Dan. There, Di Qing met the Dan Dan princess (3rd right) who fell in love with his looks. She lured him into the palace and asked for him to surrender and to marry her. Unwillingly, Di Qing wedded the princess but only thinking about escaping to defend his home land. The princess was upset that her newly wedded husband has departed without a word and set off after him, Di Qing explained about his duty and promised to return after his task. Like most plots, the hero forgot about the princess when he returned home with victory and never returned to Dan Dan. This time the princess was furious and led an army to attack Song, general Yang Zong Bao (center character) was no match with the princess and instructed Di Qing to deal with the princess. When the couple met, of course they forgot all about fighting and lived happily ever after …
Here is the opera version of the same story