Yang Luoshu, 88, the 19th generation of a Yangjiabu New Year painting family, shows off an ancestral woodblock of his family's dating back to the Ming Dynasty. [JU CHUANJIANG/CHINA DAILY]
Woodprint paintings are traditionally hung in homes around Spring Festival, but for the artists, creating the pictures is a yearlong activity and a lifetime of dedication. Wang Qian and Ju Chuanjiang report.
The Spring Festival has only just finished. But despite the festive celebrations having ceased for another year, a centuries-old folk art workshop in Yangjiabu village in Weifang, Shandong province, is still busy making Chinese traditional woodprint New Year paintings for customers.
In a dusty, somewhat cramped, residence-cum-studio, Yang Luoshu, 88, successor of the family workshop named Tongshunde, prints pictures one at a time, using a big brush made of palm fibers.
He applies colors to the raised surfaces of a carved woodblock, places a piece of rice paper on it, then brushes it smooth to apply the first color. After several rounds, a picture of figures from the classic Chinese novel Outlaws of the Marsh begins to take shape.
Advanced in years, Yang has a hunched back, but he is still quick with his hands. In half an hour, he has finished a dozen paintings with delicate patterns and bright colors. "These paintings will be well bound and sent to a customer in Hong Kong who just ordered 1,000 copies," Yang says with a smile.
"It's been a family business for hundreds of years." As the 19th generation of a painting family, Yang learned the craft when he was 7. He was named a "master of folk arts" by UNESCO in 2001.
Together with 15 experienced craftsmen, Yang's workshop makes 150,000 New Year paintings every year.
Tongshunde is one of about 100 such family workshops flourishing in Yangjiabu village.