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The Chinese have always regarded the energy of young children with great favour and in China during the turn of the last century, auspicious Children Posters were a very popular way of heralding in the New Year. Chubby baby boys (pang wawa), particularly those holding auspicious symbols have always been used to decorate homes, restaurants and retail shops.
These poster prints encapsulate traditional ideals of wealth, happiness and longevity and having them in the home during the first fifteen days of the New Year is believed to create the pure yang energy of innocent children that is so valuable in attracting good fortune.
Incorporating elements of folk art and lucky symbolism, these pictures of children hold strong appeal amongst Chinese who live in the countryside. They believe that these pictures not only express wishes for happiness and good luck for the New Year, they also ensure a continuity of good descendants luck.
According to old style feng shui masters of China, during the New Year festive season, several varieties of children poster prints would be stuck to the front door, gates, doors into courtyards and walls of important rooms, next to windows, on water vases, rice urns, side cabinets, harvest granaries and even in barnyards where livestock and dairy animals are kept.
These posters were often very colourful and were usually decorated with flowers and auspicious designs. Children, usually babies around the age of one to three years, would be the central characters. They were often depicted with protective charms around their necks, holding peaches of immortality, surrounded by magpies, mandarin ducks and other lucky signs. Those with carps were generally the most popular, as carps always signified abundance and wealth as well as fertility of descendants.All the symbols incorporated into the pictures are traditionally believed to be auspicious. There are symbols that signify long life for the older members of the family and good health for the whole family. These posters also show children holding Ru Yi and other symbols that signify a government career, great wealth and happiness luck. These symbols were an important part of the art and contributed greatly to the popularity of the posters.
Sometimes the posters also featured legendary characters and mythological personalities such as the Kitchen God, the Door Gods, the Star Gods (Fuk Luk Sau), the God of Longevity, as well as Mi Lo Fat, the popular Laughing Buddha. Incorporating these folk deities transformed the posters into magical charms to drive away bad luck.
During the Communist period of China’s history in the mid-twentieth century, visual elements of economic development such as high-rise buildings started creeping into the traditional posters, and for a while, the popularity of the posters waned.
The 1990s saw a revival of the traditional style posters, and increasingly these posters also used the different popular New Year deities such as the God of Happiness, God of Wealth and God of Longevity, and the entire pantheon of the Heavenly Deities.
The Gods were shown looking vigorous and smiling, holding their rank symbols. These would usually dominate the top half of the poster.
Below would be the The He-He twins, symbolizing good fortune, marital harmony and wealth. The boys would hold up a large wealth pot adorned with the becoming rich characters. Focus was usually directed to the contents of the wealth pot, which is usually painted in the centre of the print and a sizeable stack of dollar notes and bills brings these posters firmly into the 20th century.
Many of the posters were directed at the happiness of conceiving a son and these would generally include the little apron that the baby boy wears, his ‘tiger slippers’ and the amulets worn around his neck and on his wrist. Baby boys would usually have a red spot painted on the forehead as protection against getting sick. The baby boy is always shown smiling and chubby and holding a fish (yu, a homophone of the word yu denoting abundance) drawn in auspicious red.
‘The fish is usually fat and big’ and would probably dominate the picture. Most important is the feeling of exuberance and happiness emanating from the poster. This quality is prized above even the symbolism, as the image is supposed to bring joyousness into the home.
The baby boy would also often be drawn in full frontal nudity indicating his gender. Sometimes babies were drawn without the red spot on his forehead and no amulets for protection, but as long as he looks happy with the fish of abundance in a pool of lotus flowers, the poster is said to be most auspicious indeed.