Wealth, Happiness and Long Life - Prints for the Chinese New Year

17 February–6 May 2018

Exhibition Overview

Two boys promised wealth, workshop in North China, around 1940, woodblock print

On the 16th of February, the New Year begins after the Chinese lunar calendar. In China, it is still celebrated today with a big party. Traditionally, the home was cleansed of all evils and the gods were asked for their blessings. Colorful, printed pictures depicting gods of fortune and protection played a major role in this.In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, countless traders moved through villages and towns at the end of the year, exhibiting colorful images of guardian deities printed on plain paper. The cheaply produced prints served as a kind of religious consumable at the New Year festivities. Some were attached to the doors to ward off evil, where they slowly weathered. Others were placed on an altar and burned after a ceremony.

The more than 90 prints, most of them collected around 1926, come from various workshops in North and South China. They show the diversity of folk art. In a charming and playful way they convey an insight into the life and ideas of the broad population of China beyond the upper classes. To this day, the worship of gods of protection and fortune in the Chinese world is omnipresent.

The German photographer Michael Wolf dedicates a fascinating photo series to the small, inconspicuous shrines of the god of the earth, which can be found on every street corner in Hong Kong. A group of his photographs will also be on display in the exhibition and bear witness to the still living tradition.

(Photo: Copyright Museum Rietberg Zurich)

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