Chinese New Year

 

Chinese New Year in Paris (photo)/Godong/UIG/The Bridgeman Art Library
Chinese New Year in Paris (photo)/Godong/UIG/The Bridgeman Art Library

 

 

Hanging scroll by Hsu Pei-hung, 1950 (ink and paint on paper) / Werner Forman Archive / The Bridgeman Art Library
Hanging scroll by Hsu Pei-hung, 1950 (ink and paint on paper) / Werner Forman Archive / The Bridgeman Art Library

 

 

The Horse in Chinese Culture

Fast, powerful and diligent, the horse is a celebrated animal in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the Horse Year are believed to be energetic and quick-witted, but also hot-headed and impatient. 

In art, the horse is often appreciated for its beautiful form in sculpture, or as a carrier of people in paintings.

As a symbol of transport, the Year of the Horse suggests there will be speedy successes!

 

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Red Decorations

The colour red is considered to bring good fortune and joy. It is commonly paired with yellow or gold, a shade also associated with wealth.

From wedding dresses to the communist flag, red is applied liberally in any celebratory occasion. During Chinese New Year, it can be commonly found in paper lanterns and money envelopes.

 

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Chinese New Year lights/Godong/UIG/Bridgeman Art Library
Chinese New Year lights/Godong/UIG/Bridgeman Art Library

 

 

Chinese food/Godong/UIG/Bridgeman Art Library
Chinese food/Godong/UIG/Bridgeman Art Library

 

 

Feasting with Family and Friends

Food plays a pivotal part of Chinese culture. Instead of asking "how are you?", people often say "have you eaten yet?" !

Family members often hold a dinner on New Year's Eve, while the actual day is spent with friends. Traditional dishes include fish, dumplings, tangerines, and noodles. The most important element is that family and friends join together in celebration. 

 

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Auspicious Posters

Wood block prints are traditionally placed on doors and walls as decorations. They depict protective gods, heroes from folklores, and lucky themes.

Another popular motif is fish, in particular goldfish: the word has the same sound as "abundance", it is thought to bring bountifulness into the new new year. The fish is commonly accompanied by cheerful, well-fed and cherubic children: another sign of plentiful times. 

 

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Transformation of Fish into a Dragon, c.1980s (woodblock print), Chinese School / © FuZhai Archive
Transformation of Fish into a Dragon, c.1980s (woodblock print), Chinese School / © FuZhai Archive

 

 

The Chinese population in Indonesia celebrates New Year with the dragon dance (footage) / The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
The Chinese population in Indonesia celebrates New Year with the dragon dance (footage) / The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

 

 

A Dance with Dragons

Dragons are a symbol of auspicious power, strength and good luck. These qualities also make it a symbol of imperial authority. Unlike the beefy Western dragon, the Chinese dragon is recognisable by its long, serpentine form and lack of wings. 

The traditional Dragon Dance features a team of dancers carrying a lightweight dragon model on poles, making it twirl around itself. There could be up to nine dragons dancing in a synchronised performance. The dance is considered the highlight of Chinese New Year celebrations worldwide.

 

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See all photos in our archive of Chinese New Year celebrations


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