"Fortune" 福 - ROM2018_16231_43


"Fortune" 福

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: 995.160.15.1
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Hood
Not on view

This “fu” picture 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 a heavenly official (tianguan 天官) opens a scroll with four characters, “heavenly official gives blessing to people” (tianguan cifu 天官賜福). On the upper right side, a flying red bat symbolizes good fortune. A boy is located on each side of the heavenly official. The two boys are of different ages. The younger one on the right holds an official seal, which represents power, while the elder one on the left lifts a vase. Three halberds are placed in the vase, and from the halberds hang a stone chime and a double-fish pendant. The combination of three halberds, a chime, and fish symbolizes “may you be promoted by three ranks at once” and “may there be a surplus of auspices and happiness.”

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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