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Door-God Qin Shubao and Yuchi Gong Spring Festival Paintings by Tantou

 

The Republic of China

Paper

Length: 36cm; Height: 57cm

Handmade Spring Festival’s woodblock paintings made by Tantou, Shaoyang, Hunan Province

Door-God is a Chinese decoration placed on each side of an entry to a temple, home, business, etc., which is believed to keep evil spirits from entering.

This custom dates back to the Tang Dynasty, whose founder Emperor Tang Taizong (599—649AD) honored two of his most loyal generals – Qin Shubao and Yuchi Jingde by having their painted portraits hung on his front door. Ordinary families soon adopted the imperial custom, putting woodblock prints of the ever-vigilant generals on their front gates in the hope of attracting good luck and fending off evil spirits. The Door-God business soon spread throughout China, adding other folklore heroes and mythological figures to the repertoire.

The door gods usually come in pairs, facing each other; it is considered bad luck to place the figures back-to-back. There are several different forms of door gods, among which Qin Shubao and Yuchi Gong (used on a pair of doors) are the most frequently used.

Red-orange, purple and green are applied to this painting, among which, red symbolizes liveliness, happiness and warmth, purple stands for brightness and highness, and the green implies life and growth. Therefore, the overall effect of this painting “Door-God” is of security, warmth, festivity and vitality.

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About Tantou Spring Festival Paintings

The Tantou Spring Festival Paintings are the only surviving examples of handmade wood-block printing in Hunan province. Their unique style dates back to the early Qing Dynasty. The pictures are very colorful and the characters are drawn in a bold, primitive style. The finished product looks almost like a bas-relief. Creating a Tantou picture involves more than 20 separate steps, including making the paper, cutting the wood blocks, seven stages of printing, and seven stages of hand drawing.

There are three main types of Tantou paintings, portraits of gods, auspicious symbols and scenes from traditional operas, and around 40 common themes, with titles like "The Rats’ Wedding," "The Door God Qin Shubao" and "Harmony Leads to Happiness." The pictures recall episodes in Chinese history and reflect many aspects of traditional culture.

Peace, security, wealth, longevity, security, happiness and good fortune are the long-lasting expectations and pursuit of Chinese people; therefore, God of Blessings and Fortune, as well as Door God, are most common figures in Spring Festival paintings.

“Kylin Sending Child” Spring Festival Painting

Created in Tantou, Shaoyang, Hunan Province

From the collection of Hunan Provincial Museum

Marriage Ceremony of Rats

Created in Tantou, Shaoyang, Hunan Province

From the collection of Hunan Provincial Museum

"Giving Jewelry as Gifts” Spring Festival Painting

Created in Tantou, Shaoyang, Hunan Province

From the collection of Hunan Provincial Museum