Military Door Gods with Battle-Axes 立斧門神 - ROM2018_16346_19


Military Door Gods with Battle-Axes 立斧門神

Maker: Yangwanfa
Medium:Woodblock print
Geography: Liangping, Chongqing, China
Period: Nineteenth to mid-twentieth century
65 x 41 cm
Object number: 995.160.11.1
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Hood
Not on view

In these images of military door gods, one has a white face and the other is black (represented in red). They hold a bronze jian and a bamboo-shaped steel bian respectively, indicating their identities as Qin Qiong 秦瓊 and Yuchi Gong 尉遲恭.1 Additionally, they each hold a long battle-axe. Thus, they are also called Military Door Gods with Battle-Axes. In front of the two door gods, there are five boys, referring to the story of five sons passing civil examinations.2 One boy rides a qilin 麒麟, carries a ruyi sceptre, and holds a younger child in his arms. Another boy holds a tray full of gold and silver treasures. These elements imply many auspicious messages, such as may the qilin bring you a son,3 pass the civil exam smoothly, and promote to higher position and receive more salary.” Most importantly, the print manages to merge the functions of guarding the house and praying for wealth.

Liangping New Year pictures were printed on local handmade bamboo paper. The colour choices were generally sophisticated, and the pigment appeared sublime and rich. Similar to the production process of Yangliuqing New Year pictures, after the printing with multiple woodblocks, the kailian technique (the most intricate procedure in the making of a New Year picture) would be applied by the most skillful master in the workshop to highlight a figure’s face.4  Taking the eyes as an example, the artist applied a technique of using white pigment to draw the eyeball. The figure became immediately animated with this application. The name of the workshop, Yangwanfa, is printed next to the shoulders of the door god on the right. Carefully crafted, this pair of prints is large in size and excellent in quality. It is indeed one of the representative works of Liangping New Year pictures.

1 For the origin of the two gods, see cat. 3-1.

2 One folk legend of the later Zhou period during the Five dynasties tells the story of five sons passing civil examinations (wuzi dengke 五子登科). There was a man called Dou Yujun 窦禹钧 in the Yanshan 燕山 area who had five sons. They all had excellent personalities and great learning abilities. Later, all five sons passed the imperial examination. Three Character Classic (sanzijing 三字經) also documents this story, which makes the story more widely known. See Wang Shucun, Zhongguo minjian nianhua shilunji, 48–9.

3 See also cat. 1-1.

4 For kailian, see cat. 1-1.

Publication: Wen-Chien Cheng, and Yanwen Jiang. Gods in my home: Chinese ancestor portraits and popular prints (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 2019), 142-143.

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