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With drama within an image, the viewers will never be bored. With the prosperous development of opera culture in Qing Dynasty, a style of New Year painting emerged with opera repertoire as the theme. 

Performances within an opera repertoire were called “chu”, hence the title “Xi Chu Nian Hua” or “Plays of the New Year Painting.

In the past, farmers mainly engaged in the agricultural production process of spring sowing and autumn harvests, as well as plenty of folk activities to celebrate the annual Spring Festival.


In the New Year paintings of Yangliuqing, there are many works that depict such secular customs. Despite the lack of a narrative, these paintings evoke a strong sense of life. Based mostly on folk customs and habits, the image documents the various lifestyles and activities of people during a period, via a realistic portrayal while placing importance on its decorative quality and auspicious delight. 


Most New Year paintings from Yangliuqing are based on historical stories, folk legends and famous novels that include teachings of loyalty and filial piety, importance of virtue, righteousness and wisdom as well the scholar-beauty genre, depicting the most exciting and engaging chapters with strong narrative and educational value. In early Qing Dynasty, this style of painting inherited the traditions of draftsmanship.

Emphasizing the characters’ expressions with a solemn atmosphere till the middle period of Qing Dynasty, when the style of approach gradually shifted emphasis to portraying scenes of prosperity and liveliness, along with a soft and delicate colour palette

Civil servants, young male generals, marshals or female generals ride white horses. 

Grand generals ride stallions.

Valiant generals ride pinto, black beauty and chestnut-colored horses.

Foreign generals ride bluish green, gray or dun horses.

Vice generals ride spotted pinto horses.

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