The two figures in this wood block print is the poet monks Han Shan and Shi Di. Han Shan and Shi Di are close friends, sharing ideas on poetry, zen teaching as well as literature. The 2 are known as the He He saints – for love, peace and harmony.
Shi Di (left) carried a stem of lotus “荷 – He” while Han Shan (right) has a rounded box “盒 – He”. The words 荷盒 “He He” has the same pronunciation as the words 和合 “He He” which has the meaning peaceful harmony.
At the wedding night, offering will be made by the bride and groom to the He He immortals for love, peace and harmony to be extended to the new family.
The story of this wood block print comes from the Ming dynasty novel 殘唐五代史演義, a fiction set in the late Tang and 5 Dynasty 10 Kingdoms Period (around AD 900). Though having less literary merits as the Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, the story of the novel has been adapted into opera and craft works.
The scene from the story goes like this; one night the Jin Emperor dreamt that a tiger has entered into his tent, he saw it as an omen of the arrival of a great fighter. The next day, he met a young fighter who was powerful as well as courageous, able to lift up a tiger with his bare arms. The emperor made him as one of his 13 adopted sons (Tai Bao) and name him Li Cun Xiao.
The worship of the heaven and earth is perhaps the most primitive of all faith. Heaven and earth included all the natural and fundamental elements such as the sun, moon and the galaxy, mountain, valley, river, lake and the sea, wind, rain, thunder and lighting are all part of the believes. The power of nature poses both blessing and treats to the human world. All, these elements are humanized into a saint known as the God of Heaven and Earth. Unlike the other saints, he is not housed in a temple as he symbolizes the universe as such; on Chinese New Year day, a wood block print of him will be posted up under the eaves for worship. Other time you will come across the God of Heaven and Earth are in traditional Chinese weddings, the bride and the groom will begin their wedding ritual by worshiping this god of the universe.
Below the Jade Emperor in the middle of this wood block print is an image of a tablet where it is written, “天地三界 十方萬靈”, there are 3 dimensions, the heaven, the earth and the dead, saints are every where.
A phrase of blessing, 福壽無疆 “Fu Shou Wu Jiang”, good fortune and longevity without limit.
On the print are 4 fruits (from right to left); the Buddha’s hand fruit, the peach, large fruit and the pomegranate, they are also symbol of blessings.
Buddha’s Hand Fruit 佛手 – the fortune hand 福手 as they share the same pronounciation “Fu Shou”.
Longevity Peach 壽桃- the magical peaches that produce longevity.
Large Fruit 碩果- the rare individual that made large achievements.
Pomegranate 石榴 – the many seeds of the pomegranate symbolizes many sons.
This new year print was from the Ping Yang school which started print making since the Sung dynasty. This print is by one of the famous print shop 興昌畫店 in Lin Fin Town.
There are different new year print for different blessings, for fertility, longevity, health, prosperity, etc. This particular one is for the livestock and the working cart; sitting in the middle the guy with 3 eyes is Hua Guang, one of the 4 Taoist Saints, a powerful warrior against evils. On both sides of him are 2 banners, 牛馬平安 (blessing to the ox and horses), 日進斗金 (daily income of 100g of gold).
This is a Wei Fong school wood block print.
The Wei Fong school of the Shan Dong province began in the late Ming dynasty and flourished in the Qing dynasty. Known for the bold composition and the reflection of life with humor. The wooden stencil of this print was carved by the artisan Zhao Lan Peng of the Wei Fong New Year Print Studio in the 80s.
The subject of the print is Guan Yu, the red face general of the 3 Kingdom period. In the novel, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, General Guan took on loyal and fearless character which is worshipped by the police and the triads alike.
This Ukiyo-e print two kōshi-jōro (high ranking courtesan) contemplating on a writing a letter.
Would it be a letter to home, a lover or a desirable client?
The movie Sukuran describes life inside Yoshiwara as a courtesan, the rivalry, survival and love.
This Yang Liu Qing wood block print depicts a scene of the Duan Wu Festival where the dragon boat race is taking place. From the costume, it would be a time of the Republic of China period, the cue hairstyle has gone, the appearance of western style hats.
The dragon boat race began as a rescue operation of the respected Qu Yuan who leaped into the river to kill himself. Fisherman gathered ringing gongs to scare the fish away, feeding them zong so they will not harm him. Hundreds of years later, it came a festival that attracted even the Emperors would participate viewing the race.
Today is 5th of lunar May, and you have probably feasted on the traditional dumpling (zong) over the past few days. The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival will take place on this weekend and this year it have the setting of the Victoria Harbour. Click here for more details.
This is a new year print of (Hu) San Tai Yi 胡三太爷, one of the home protectors worshiped in the villages in the North East China. The most famous ones are saint Hu (胡) and Huang (黄), both Hu and Huang is a common Chinese surname, it is however referring to two animals the fox (狐狸) “Hu Li” and the weasel (黄鼬) “Huang You”. Out of respect, their real identity is disguised and humanized. San Tai Yi, is the most powerful home protector, he is the brother of the legendary Nine Tails Fox Goddess who helped Yu the Great to calm the floods in prehistoric China (2200BC).
This is an ukiyo-e print depicting a courtesan of Yoshiwara playing a game of go (published 1910s)
In the Edo period, the Yoshiwara area (now the modern Asakusa of Tokyo) was the only district of pleasure that was licensed. Unlike other red light districts in the world, courtesans are trained to be cultured, to be the ideal companion; waka poetry, the game of go, chess, playing cards, calligraphy, ikebana, tea ceremony, incense ceremony and other things.