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Tianjin Investing in Folk Art Preservation

The municipal government of Tianjin is planning to invest 100 million yuan (US$12 million) annually for the next seven years to protect and develop folk culture and art, said Zhao Wanxiang, deputy director of the Tianjin Municipal Culture Bureau.

Zhao was speaking on Monday at the opening session of a four-day seminar on protecting and developing Yangliuqing woodblock New Year pictures. This form of art, for which Tianjin is famous, is one of the most highly respected styles of traditional New Year pictures in China.

Zhao said that a museum will be established next year in Tianjin to house outstanding folk art, including Yangliuqing New Year pictures.

Yangliuqing New Year pictures originated in the town of Yangliuqing, in the western suburbs of Tianjin, in the early 17th century. Artists combine techniques of woodblock printing and hand painting. City cultural officials have been working to preserve the art since the late 1950s.

Liu Jianchao, president of the Tianjin Yangliuqing Fine Arts Press, said that his company has collected over 6,500 antique New Year picture woodblocks, with the oldest dating back to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

A selection of antique woodblocks and some vintage New Year pictures were put on display for the first time in the city at the seminar.

Liu said his company has employed 95 professional artists to make Yangliuqing pictures. Their work has been exhibited in more than 20 countries, including the United States, France, Australia, Singapore and Japan as well as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Taiwan Province.

Yangliuqing New Year pictures generally feature ancient beauties, children and folk customs or stories from classical operas, myths and legends.

(China Daily August 31, 2004)

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