This Lunar New Year, learn more about Chinese traditions, folk beliefs and traditional art at a special exhibition by Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall (SYSNMH) titled Nian Hua: Of Deities, Guardians and Auspicious Art. Presented in collaboration with the Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, it includes close to 70 artefacts from various provinces in China, alongside curated prints from the National Museum of Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum and Singapore Art Museum collections.
The spotlight is on 'nian hua', or 'new year prints', which are vividly rendered woodblock-prints depicting gods, deities and other figures from Chinese mythology and religion. These were pasted on doors to usher in the Lunar New Year, and to seek blessings for the household. Artefacts date as far back as the Qing dynasty and up to the 1980s, showing the evolution of the art and craft of 'nian hua' alongside modern interpretations from local artists Justin Lee and John Soo.
While the art and practice of 'nian hua' has faded from Singapore and much of Southeast Asia, the existing works allow us to glean much about traditional Chinese values, beliefs and customs. Go through the four sections of the exhibitions and get acquainted with door deities and guardians, kitchen gods, 'nian hua' calling for blessings in the bedchambers, and wishes for prosperous, long lives. Along the way, you'll meet familiar figures too, such as General Guan Yu and Tua Pek Gong.
Following Nian Hua: Of Deities, Guardians and Auspicious Art, homegrown master craftsman Jim Wong Pui Fatt will also be running woodblock-printing workshops catered to all ages. Children and adults alike will have the chance to carve their own simple woodblocks stamps, print them onto thin sheets of rice paper, and use these prints to decorate traditional lanterns.
For more information about the Nian Hua: Of Deities, Guardians and Auspicious Art exhibition and SYSNMH's line-up of Lunar New Year programmes and activities, visit sysnmh.org.sg.