Happy Chinese New Year – Let the year of the sheep/goat begin! Apparently this could be a year full of opportunities for me (my Chinese zodiac animal is snake), and I need to strike while the iron is hot! Be bold, and “go for it” is my mantra …
For those of you who don’t already know, I have been learning Mandarin Chinese for over a year now and I will be spending a month in China on an intensive language course in September 2015. I have just booked my place on the course, so I just have to sort out my flights and visa. This will be a trip of a lifetime, and I know that my experiences will inspire my printmaking – as soon as I return at the end of September, I will be starting to produce work ready for Dorset Art Weeks 2016.
Printmaking was infact invented in China, just after the invention of paper, circa AD 105. The first prints were stone rubbings and the first known Chinese woodcut print was a famous buddhist scroll, which contained both text and image. This dates back to AD 868. Printmaking didn’t start in Europe until after the introduction of paper mills in the 15th Century.
It was the Chinese New Year Party on Sunday at the Bournemouth Chinese School. This is where I go every week for my Mandarin lessons! It is a school serving the Chinese community where children who were born in the UK, but speak mainly Chinese with their parents at home, have the opportunity to learn how to read and write the language. However, anyone who is interested in learning Chinese is also welcome to attend the classes. At the New Year Party on Sunday, I watched some girls dressed in traditional costume perform a beautiful Chinese parasol dance, and Haibin (one of the volunteer helpers) played the guitar and sang a traditional song. Afterwards there was a very delicious buffet – all home-cooked food brought in by the parents.
Apparently the tradition of celebrating New Year in China comes from a story about a monster called “Nian”. This monster would sleep for most of the year, but it would wake up on the evening of the last day of the Lunar year, just in time for the arrival of Spring. This was a terrifying night for the people living in the ancient villages of China, because the Nian would go on the rampage devouring everything in its path – it was particularly fond of eating children. People tried to stop the monster, but they were no match for it. I am a bit hazy now about who came up with the idea, but somebody (a wise old man?) showed the villagers how to scare away the monster by painting the doors red and using loud noises – playing drums and cymbals, lighting firecrackers on the ends of bamboo poles, and performing a scary dance dressed up as a lion. These tactics worked, so the villagers repeated it the following year – and each subsequent year, at which point it became a traditional celebration because the Nian could no longer terrorise the villagers.
In preparation for my trip to China, I have been learning how to ask for and understand directions! The photos below demonstrate the best way to learn; my flashcards are positioned above my printing press so I can look at them every day …. So I am learning while I print! As you can see, I am still editioning the “gossip” prints.