“Prosperity” 祿 - ROM2018_16578_2


“Prosperity” 祿

Maker: Wenyizhai
Medium:Woodblock print, ink and colour on paper
Geography: Xiaojiaochang, Shanghai, China
Period: Nineteenth to mid-twentieth century
Ht 54.5 x Wt 31.2 cm
Object number: 995.160.15.2
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Hood
Not on view

This “lu” picture is one of a four-prints set (995.160.15.1-4). This print set comes form 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 men on horseback who are using whips to urge the horses to gallop. These men represent the top officials in the civil and military imperial examinations. They are on their way home to share the excellent results of the exams with their families. In front of the horses, two boys bearing flags lead the way. The text on one flag reads, “number one in the imperial exam” (zhuangyuan jidi 狀元及第), and the other flag reads, “obtain the first place all to himself” (duzhan aotou 獨占鰲頭). A boy follows the horses, lifting a canopy.

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.

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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