New Year picture is an image carrier of the Spring Festival culture. In China, by the close of the year, New Year pictures are pasted in many places to add auspicious atmosphere. As an age-old art, New Year pictures give expressions to the lifestyle and features of the people, their sentiments and aesthetic tastes. New Year pictures fall into three types in terms of working process: prints, carved paper and paper drawn. Prints mainly refer to ancient woodcut print. The working process includes primarily drawing draft, sketching outline, woodcutting, making plates, printing, painting and framing. Carved paper refers to carving
patterns on paper, which gives a fine and vivid picture. Paper drawn, or gray put, refers to a special craft in which the artists use charcoal sticks to draw draft of lines, and then put drawing paper on the draft, by applying willow branch burning ash on it and copy, a few copies can be produced from each draft. To produce a beautiful painting, a set of processed have to be followed including coloring, lining in black, opening the facial features, rinsing hand, etc. “Gray put” pictures began to surface during the Chenghua Period (1465-1487) and became influential later on. The Japanese ukiyoe had assimilated the essence of the techniques of gray put.
The New Year Pictures originated from the door-god just like the spring couplets. According to the book Du Duan by Cai Yi (132-192) of the Eastern Han Dynasty, the pictures of Shen Tu and Yu Ler, two gods guarding the gateway to the high spirits were passed on the doors of the ordinary people. It was said that when Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty fell ill, he heard ghosts and monsters wail outside his sleeping quarters which disturbed his sleep all through the night. Knowing this, the two senior generals, Qin Shubao and Wei Chigong, offered to stand guard at the royal palace, one holding a sword, and the other two iron staffs. Later on, the emperor had the picture of these two generals drawn and pasted them on the palate gate. Since then, the custom of pasting door gods spread among the people. One is Qin Shubao, white faced with phoenix eyes, holding two maces; the other is Wei Chigong, black faced with round eyes, holding double iron-staffs.