Saturday, September 08, 2007

Paper Gods

folk devil god

Zhong Kui

chinese calendar of gods
Da Zhonghua Minguo ba nian Zaojun zhi shen wei

zhong shen - colourful folk figures
Zhong shen

votive realm of gods
Guansheng Dadi

chinese folk god woodcut
Hu fa Weituo zun shen

bright coloured menshen folk god

stylised folk figure on horseback

chinese folk god and attendants

angry folk god scaling wall
Fu zai yan qian

chinese male folk figure holding scroll
Fu zi tian lai

male god and attendants
Ganying Yaowang

2 chinese folk religion scenes
Guang han gong

Ancient folk religions of China include elements of Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, ancestor veneration as well as mythological deities and astrology. Worship of the hundreds of Gods and Saints is regarded as complementary rather than conflicting with a person's chosen religion.

The ubiquitous public face of Chinese folk religions are the New Year's woodblock illustrations ('nianhua') which have been produced for more than a thousand years. These (generally) inexpensive prints are said to bestow luck on the household or ward off evil spirits and are either displayed prominently throughout the year and then burned and replaced, or are burned as part of ceremonial practices on auspicious dates.

The longer lasting prints (usually the more elaborate and colourful) are conspicuously displayed on the front, back and bedroom doors, in the household shrine and in the kitchen (the 'stove God'), often in association with a calendar.

Anne Swann Goodrich (1895-2005) became entranced by the paper folk art traditions when she worked as a missionary in (the then) Peking. In 1931 she bought the whole colletion of 'nianhua' available from a print shop and spent much of the rest of her life studying the history and meaning behind the paper art forms. Her collection was donated to Columbia University sixteen years ago and represents a snapshot in time of the printing styles and imagery that constituted the popular visual culture of 1931 Peking.


regenmantell said...

The image captioned "Da Zhonghua Minguo ba nian Zaojun zhi shen wei" is actualy a type of calendar, detailing important days in each month.

peacay said...

Thank for that - it *does* look like a calendar, I'll grant you.

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