"Happiness" 喜 - ROM2018_16231_46


"Happiness" 喜

Maker: Wenyizhai
Medium:Woodblock print, ink and colour on paper
Geography: Xiaojiaochang, Shanghai, China
Period: Nineteenth to mid-twentieth century
54.5 x 31.2
Object number: 995.160.15.4
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Hood
Not on view

This “xi” print is one of a four-prints set (995.160.15.1-4). This print set comes from a series of New Year prints. The upper section of each print is engraved with a different giant double-outlined character, which are respectively fu (fortune), lu 祿 (prosperity), shou (longevity), and xi (happiness). The characters are depicted in diverse colours and with varied background patterns.1

This piece depicts two Immortals of Harmony and Unity in the middle of the picture.One is opening a treasure box containing gold, silver, and precious things, while the other holds a lotus.2 A young attendant is on each side of them. One is holding a coin, and the other is grabbing an elixir of life. The image of a flying red bat in front of a coin symbolizes “the fortune is in front of you.”

The four pictures together express good wishes for fortune, prosperity, longevity, and happiness. The first three prints are all inscribed with “Wenyizhai at the west of Shangyang Temple” (Shangyang miao xi wenyizhai 上洋廟西文儀齋), followed by a seal qiutian 秋田. The last print, “xi,” has the inscription “made by Wenyizhai at Shangyang” (Shangyang wenyizhai zhi 上洋文儀齋制), but no seal. According to the inscriptions, this series of New Year prints was made in the Wenyizhai print shop from Xiaojiaochang in Shanghai.

1 For the early publications of this set of prints, see Doré, Researches into Chinese Superstitions vol. IV, fig. 173a/b/c/d, 433-7.

2 For the Immortals of Harmony and Union, see cat. 1-3.

Publication: Wen-Chien Cheng, and Yanwen Jiang. Gods in my home: Chinese ancestor portraits and popular prints (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 2019), 82-83.

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