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LOOK: Chinese New Year Paintings Through the Years

A lot of artists around the world take inspiration from one of the most significant Chinese celebrations, the Lunar New Year. Depicting the symbolism, rich history, and tradition of the said event on canvas has given these artists widespread acclaim, and we, as viewers, get to benefit from their masterpieces. 

Here are just some of the paintings from ancient China and modern-day artists that showcase the Lunar New Year:


Ming Emperor Xianzong Enjoying the Lantern Festival by Ming Imperial Court Painter

Photo from DailyArt Magazine

In the Winter of 1485 A.D., during the Ming dynasty, an imperial court painter, whose name still remains anonymous today, chose to paint a depiction of a Ming Imperial Court celebrating the Lunar New Year. Seen in the painting is 9th generation Ming Emperor Xianzong who is having a great time with families in the Forbidden City during the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival. The scene also includes a beautiful lantern-decorated night market and ancient Ming dynasty people enjoying activities, such as acrobatic performances, operas, magic shows, and setting off firecrackers.


Joyous Celebration at the New Year by Yao Wen-han 

Photo from Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media

This painting captures a Chinese elite’s domestic life during the Qing dynasty. Analysts of the painting have said there are two types of children in the artwork. On the right side of the main door, children are seen enjoying their time playing with a puppet that embodies a character from a famous tale or historical play. On the other hand, children present at the table show full responsibility and concern for their elders, as well as filial service to their parents, which was one of the values strengthened during the Qing dynasty. 


Tai Ping Spring Market by Ding Guanpeng

Photo from Youlin magazine

Guanpeng’s painting portrays a lively celebration of the Chinese Lantern Festival in rural areas during the Qing dynasty, complete with Taiping Drums, a monkey trick show, and an artist’s performance.


Chinese New Year by Alexandra Romano 

Photo from Saatchi Art

Alexandra Romano is known to delight in creating abstract paintings that have striking, vibrant colors and are inspired by nature and events. Her abstract painting, Chinese New Year, features bold strokes in a bright color palette that encompasses the celebration. 

The piece reflects a firework display at a festival. According to analysts of the painting, the color red represents a red dragon dance being performed. It’s emphasized since the color is known to be China’s national color. It’s also considered  to be a lucky color and is believed to bring success, happiness, and good fortune.

The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armor on Horseback by Guiseppe Castiglione

Photo from Youlin magazine

The painter himself, Castiglione, was an Italian missionary and painter who set foot in China during the Qing dynasty. Upon dedicating service to the Qing Court for more than 50 years, he was inspired to create numerous paintings that illustrates the daily life of Emperor Yong Zheng, the fifth emperor of the Qing dynasty.

The artwork is part of a series of Castiglione’s paintings that tell a sequence of 12 lunar months from spring to winter, displaying various scenes of royal life. Apart from the attention to detail, showcasing the Chinese gardens, Western pavilions, and terraces, the Lunar New Year painting showcases Emperor Yong Zheng in ceremonial armor, going to the Old Summer Palace to enjoy and celebrate the Lantern Show.


Love art? Get to know some Chinese painters, such as Qi Baishi, as master at age 27; Shitao, an individualistic painter; and Pan Yuliang, the post-impressionist female painter.

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