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Tao's woodprint New Year painting technique thrives with colors

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: July 21, 2022
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Tao Yunhang, a ninth-generation inheritor of Tao's woodprint New Year painting technique, displays his artwork. [Photo/Haibao News]

In a humble store near Chenji Square in Jining's Lige town, visitors can see the vibrant New Year paintings and piles of woodblocks that are used to create Tao's paintings.

As a born and bred folk art in China, woodprint New Year paintings are intended to comprehensively mirror ordinary Chinese people's lives.

Tao's woodprint New Year painting technique in Jining dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1368-1644) and still thrives today.

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Tao Yunhang carves a woodblock for a New Year painting. [Photo/Haibao News]

"Many locals produce New Year paintings, but few know how to carve the woodblocks," said Tao Yunhang, the ninth-generation inheritor of Tao's woodprint New Year painting technique.

Tao started to learn woodblock carving from his grandfather when he was a child and has worked in the business for more than four decades.

"The paintings look nice, yet require complicated skills to produce," Tao said. 

There are roughly three steps – drawing a draft, carving the woodblock, and printing. Most of the paintings are produced from a set of woodblocks.

An artist needs to apply one color to the raised surfaces of a carved woodblock, place a piece of rice paper on it, then apply the first color smoothly with a paintbrush. After hours of tedious work, a New Year painting begins to take shape.

"Different colors are applied to different woodblocks for different parts of a painting. The printing must be high-precision," Tao said.

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A New Year painting begins to take shape with different colors. [Photo/Haibao News]

Since electronic printing emerged, woodprint New Year paintings declined, yet the craftsmanship and uniqueness of the artwork is irreplaceable.

Over the past few years, Tao has exhibited his works and promoted the ancient art form in many other cities across China. His works have also been collected by museums.

In January, Tao's woodprint New Year painting technique was added to the Shandong provincial intangible cultural heritage list.