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Chinese New Year: Chinese New Year's Decorations

All about Chunlian

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Various decorations are a must during Chinese New Year celebrations. New decorations are put up each year and remain up throughout the year to welcome luck, health and prosperity in the New Year.

Chunlian:

Chūnlián (春聯) are simply long, narrow red strips of paper or diamond-shaped paper printed with black or gold Chinese characters which are hung in the doorways of homes in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The papers are red because the Chinese word for red (紅, hóng) sounds like the word for “prosperous.” Red symbolizes joy, virtue, truth and sincerity. The color red is often used in Chinese opera for characters who are sacred or loyal. Gold is symbolic of wealth.

The poetic couplets feature calligraphy written with fragrant India ink. One to four characters about springtime and the themes of renewal and return of spring are written on chunlian. The tradition of placing spring couplets on the home originated during the Five Dynasties Period in which Meng Chang inscribed characters on a peach slat. This evolved into the tradition of pasting door gods on peach wood charms and finally red paper decorations with auspicious calligraphy.

Just before Chinese New Year begins, families give their homes a thorough spring cleaning. Old chunlian are taken down and discarded. Once the entire house is cleaned, new chunlian are put up around the house, particularly along the top and sides of the front door. Smaller diamond-shaped chunlian are oftentimes put on bedroom doors or mirrors in the home.

Chunlian feature one or more lucky Chinese characters or sayings. The most common are:

Chunlian for fu and chun are often hung upside down because the Chinese word 倒 (dào, upside down) sounds the same as 到 (dào, arrive). Therefore, it symbolizes the arrival of fortune and spring.

Kitchen God:

The Kitchen God is another Chinese New Year decoration that is hung in the kitchen. A new picture of the Kitchen God is hung each year.

Wood Block Prints:

Wood block prints are another form of Chinese New Year decoration. Traditional wood block prints first featured door gods, which are pasted on gates at Chinese New Year to protect the home.

There are two kinds of door gods: marital door gods who are generals in full battle armor, including Shen Tu and Yu Lei, Chin Chiung and Wei Chi-Kung, and Wei To and Chia Lan, and literary door gods, that are based on scholars and officials and hung in courtyards or inside room doors. Popular characters include San Hsing, Wu Tze Teng Ke and Chuang Kuan Chin Li. Today wood block prints also feature lucky themes taken from stories, drama and folk customs that are used to usher in luck and wealth.

Paper Cuttings:

Paper cuttings are intricately cut red paper designs of zodiac animals and lucky Chinese characters are set against a white background and prominently placed on walls throughout the home to usher in luck and prosperity in the New Year.
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