China Information >> couplets
Chinese couplet is also called "Duilian" or "Duizi". The couplet for Chinese Spring Festival is called "Chunlian". Chinese couplet consists of two sentences which are interrelated in meaning and antithetic in form. The first line is called upper couplet which is put up or hung on the right side and the other is called lower couplet which is placed on the left side.Not only are the two lines required to have an equal number of characters, the words stand in the same position in each of the two sentences must be antithetic in form and in harmonious tone.
Lengend has it that as early as in the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) there was the custom among Chinese people of hanging taofu (peach charm), made of peach wood and painted charm inscriptions or pictures of Shentu and Yulei Gods on the door in order to ward off evil spirits. By the end of the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) people began to write two auspicious antithetical lines on peach board in stead of the two Gods. According to historical records the first couplet was written on the peach boards by Emperor Meng Chang during the Five Dynasties (907-960AD). That couplet is “xin nian na yu qing, jia jie hao chang chun.” which means enjoy the boon of the forefather in the New Year, the Festival indicates the beautiful spring. Later on people wrote the couplet on the red paper instead of on the peach board. When celebrating the Spring Festival Chinese people put the couplet on the door. These couplets are called Spring Couplets (Chunlian). It began from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD). Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Ming Emperor issued an imperial decree to order the people put up the couplets on the door at Chinese Spring Festival thus brought the Spring Couplets prevalence. Actually the Spring Couplets which convey the blessing and people’s good wish that really add the jubilant atmosphere to the New Year’s Festival.
Chinese couplets are always hung on the pillars of palaces or temples, which add much charming to the beautiful scenery and the architecture Usually Chinese couplet is very short with a few characters. However some of them can be .considerable long. One poet named Sun Ranweng from the Qing Dynasty once wrote a couplet for Grand View Tower in Kunming. That couplet has 180 characters. It was regarded as the No1 long Couplet.
For different business they have different couplets. For example the couplet for book store can be like this: “ yu zhi qian gu shi, xu du wu che shu” which means “If one wants to know the events of one thousand years, he needs to read five carts of books”. The couplet for hotels can be like this: “ huan ying chun xia qiu dong ke, kuan dai dong xi nan bei ren” which means “ Welcome guests in spring, summer, autumn and winter, entertain people from east, west, south and north”.
People some times wrote couplets for friends or for themselves as an aphorism. For example the couplet “shu shan you jing qing wei lu, xue hai wu ya ku zuo zhou” is very popular among the scholars. It means “Diligent study is the path to the summit of knowledge, hardworking is the boat across the sea of great learning. Chinese couplets are always used to offer congratulations for birthday, marriage. At the same time it was also used to express one’s condolences to the family of the deceased.
Chinese Spring Festival Picture is Chinese New Year picture which is called Nianhua in Chinese. It originated in the Pre-Qin Period (before 221 BC). During the Han Dynasties (206B-220AD), people liked to paste the images of various gods on both sides of the door, expecting them to ward off the evils and usher in good luck. These images are called "the Door Gods”. Since people pasted them up during the Spring Festival, these pictures gained a special significance for the Spring Festival occasion. The art of printing from engraved plates, which was invented in the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), brought about further development of New Year’s Pictures. Before the Tang Dynasty, New Year’s Pictures in most cases were images of deities and spirits. After the Tang Dynasty, some works came to reflect the reality, and the images of the door-gods turned into two generals: Qin Qiong and Yuchi Jingde.
There were more New Year Pictures produced in the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD), and xylographic (Woodblock) New Year Pictures of religious themes developed gradually in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD). In the Qing dynasties, xylographic New Year Pictures reached a new height of development and they came into the homes of the ordinary people. In the Qing Dynasty, most of the provinces had their own workshops for making New Year’s Pictures. The main producers included Mianzhu of Sichuan, Wuqiang of Hebei, Zhuxianzhen of Henan, Shaoxing of Zhejiang, Taohuawu of Suzhou, Yangliuqing of Tianjin, Weifang of Shandong, Foshan of Guangdong, and so on.
Judging from their development, there are two schools of New Year Pictures: the southern school and the northern school. The representatives of the northern school are those from Yangliuqing of Tianjin and Weifang of Shandong. New Year Pictures produced in Yangliuqing originated in the late Ming Dynasty and reached its peak in the Qing Dynasty. The subjects were mainly images from traditional operas, chubby babies and beautiful fairies. A rich composition and refined drawing style showed its artistic traits. New Year Pictures produced in Weifang mainly dealt with fairy tales, legends and auspicious designs. A style of simplicity, with bold and vigorous lines and bright colors, showed its characteristics. The most famous New Year Pictures of the southern school were those from Taohuawu of Suzhou and Foshan of Guangdong. Both originated in the Ming Dynasty and reached their peak in the reigns of Emperor Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1736-1796AD).
While influenced by traditional styles, it also reflected certain features of European copper-plate printing. After the introduction of lithographic and offset printing into China, xylographic New Year Pictures were under great pressure and almost on the brink of decline. However, after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, traditional xylographic New Year Pictures were reborn. Many New Year Pictures, excellent in both content and form were produced and the themes focused mainly on the real life of the people. Along with the improvement of printing technology, there are more and more new materials for New Year’s Pictures. This traditional artistic form is full of vigor and widely loved by the people.