Nianhua, or New Year pictures, are decorations that are traditionally hung on doors during the Spring Festival. The practice is particularly popular in the countryside and was recorded as far back as the Song Dynasty over 800 years ago. The images are brightly colored scenes of prosperity and good luck. Symbols such as birds and types of fruit are popular, with one of the most common scenes being a plump baby with a really big fish.During the mid-20th century, the Communist Party turned the Nianhua into a source of propaganda. They kept the style, but not the message. One “new Nianhua” picture shows the traditionally plump Chinese children, but instead of lounging around, they’re washing clothes, performing carpentry, sewing, and harvesting food. These images became the most common sort in homes, not because they were popular, but simply because the government stopped the distribution of anything else. When more freedom was granted in the 1980s, more traditional images shot back to the forefront and the youngsters were once again paired with giant fish.
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