Chinese Lunar New Year: Year of the Water Snake

REN Xun
Flowers and eccentric rock 1886 (detail)
(岁朝清供)
ink and pigments on paper
125.3 x 65.2 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Ms Jennifer Shaw, Member 1993
AS15-1993
REN Xun
Flowers and eccentric rock 1886 (detail)
(岁朝清供)
ink and pigments on paper
125.3 x 65.2 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Ms Jennifer Shaw, Member 1993
AS15-1993

Chinese New Year begins on 10 February 2013. It is the year of the Water Snake. The snake represents transformation and healing. It is a year to focus within and reflect. Steady progress and attention to detail wins the race in the year of the Snake.

In traditional China, the lunar New Year is celebrated after harvesting when food is plentiful. Before the New Year, all debts are paid. The house is cleaned and cleared of evil spirits and bad influences. On New Year’s eve the family gathers to enjoy a feast of auspicious foods such as the fish which has the same pronunciation as plenty. On New Year’s day, people visit friends and children are given presents of money in red envelopes. Lion dance is performed to reach for money hung in front of shops in the midst of fire crackers. Puppet shows are performed.

The Chinese New Year is also celebrated with flowers and fruits. Flowers are bought in a flower fair on New Year’s eve. The narcissus, a symbol of good fortune and prosperity is grown specially to celebrate New Year. In November or December bulbs are set in a flower pot filled with pebbles, and great care is taken to ensure that the narcissus is in full bloom on the first day of the lunar New Year, thus ensuring a happy and prosperous year.

In Flowers and eccentric rock, by Ren Xun (1835– 1893), auspicious flowers, fruit and scholarly objects convey New Year greetings. Depicted are scholar’s rock, auspicious flowers and fruits: narcissus, citron (Buddha’s hand), peony, `king of flowers’, fungus (lingzhi 灵芝), red dragon vase, and elephant vase, which symbolize good fortune, wealth, longevity, peace and prosperity.

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