Yuanru Tan – Graduate Student International Summer Research or Residency Award Recipient

Sichuan Province, China: Ethnographic research on the perspectives of established Mianzhu Nianhua artists on strategies for engaging younger generations in the study and appreciation of Nianhua history.

As a graduate student passionate about cultural exploration and education, I embarked on a remarkable journey, thanks to the support of the Graduate Student International Summer Research Award. This opportunity allowed me to delve into the rich world of Mianzhu Nianhua (绵竹年画), a traditional Chinese New Year art form, and bring its magic to life through an interactive workshop that left a lasting impact on both participants and me.

For those of you who might not know about Mianzhu Nianhua, it is a traditional Chinese New Year print art that originated in Mianzhu (Fig.1), a county-level city in Sichuan Province, China. The art form dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is characterized by bright colors and intricate designs that depict auspicious themes such as longevity, prosperity, and good fortune. Mianzhu Nianhua has been recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage.

Fig. 1. Exterior view of the entrance to the Mianzhu Nianhua Museum workshop studio. Two large door deities are permanently painted onto the double leaf door, with traditional Nianhua figures painted onto the wall.

Despite its rich heritage, Mianzhu Nianhua faces the challenge of capturing the interest of the younger generation. The intricate artistic skills required by this art form can be intimidating, but what many don’t realize is that Mianzhu Nianhua can also be accessible and enjoyable for all.