For many centuries the Chinese people have decorated their homes during the Chinese New Year (CNY) with brightly-coloured pictures printed on paper by woodblock painting. In more recent times, the prints received the name of nianhua (年畫 ) or New Year pictures. The emergence of ninahua as an art form was due largely from technical advances.

The origin of nianhua can be traced back to the 5th century when printed icons similar to nianhua were first produced in Buddhist and Taoist monasteries. Woodblock printing of nianhua created in 18th to 19th century can be found in museums. Icons of Ménshén (門神), Gate Gods; Zhōng kuí (鍾馗), Demon chaser; Zào jūn (灶君) , Kitchen God; Tǔdì God (土地公公); Guānyīn (觀音), Bodhisattva; and Guānyǔ or Guāngōng (關羽 or 關公), a respected general, are popular in that period.


Ménshén  (門神), Gate Gods
Ménshén (門神), Gate Gods


Zhōng kuí (鍾馗), Demon chaser
Zhōng kuí (鍾馗), Demon chaser



Zào jūn (灶君) , Kitchen God



Tǔdì God (土地公公)


Guānyīn (觀音), Bodhisattva
Guānyīn (觀音), Bodhisattva



Guānyǔ or Guāngōng (關羽 or 關公)
Guānyǔ or Guāngōng (關羽 or 關公)


Chinese folklore like the Zào jūn (灶君) who takes a record of the good deeds as well as wrong deeds of each member of the families, promotes in the minds of people the judgement of right and wrong. This is essential for the harmony of society.

Guānyīn (觀音), Bodhisattva is a figure of mercy. We should always be merciful towards others.


Acknowledgements :

Patrick would like to thank the authors for their hard work in collating the prints.

Bibliography and further readings :

Maria Rudova, Lev Menshikov, Viacheslav Sobolev, Yurin Kirilin (1988) Chinese Popular Prints, Aurora Publishers, Leningrad






One thought on “Nianhua (年畫) Paintings for CNY Part 1 (Religious Pictures)

  1. Hello, Patrick,
    Congratulations on the display of your great brush work in the Art Gallery NSW, great work and well done!

    It is amazing and enjoyable to view the magnificent and beautiful Chinese national artistic treasures — the Chinese folklore and ‘nianhua’ in these webpages.

    I like the Menshen, Gate Gods and the Guanyu/Guangong, they are very energetic and vigorous.

    I have been to Weifang Yangjia bu in Shandong. It is valuable to observe that the Chinese nianhua (so and so) is still hand printed by human over there. It is the proud of our Chinese Civilization.

    Hope to see more of your artworks in the Art Gallery of all the States.

    Wish everyone have an energetic and vigorous Chinese New Year.


    Liked by 2 people

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