Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy New Year!
January 31st 2014 Chinese New Year, otherwise known as the Lunar New Year, is the year of the Horse. Chinese months are determined by the lunar calendar and cycles every 12 years, each year a different animal according to the Chinese Zodiac.Chinese myth divines people born in each animal’s year encompass some of that animal’s personality. Those born in the year of the horse are energetic, warm hearted, and creative.
People celebrate the New Year by wearing red clothing, gathering with family over traditional foods, giving hung bao or “lucky money” in red envelopes, and setting off firecrackers in order to drive away evil spirits. During the Lantern Festival colorful dragons made of silk, paper, and bamboo dance through lantern lit streets as people offer them hung bao for good luck.
My mother emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S. for her studies before marrying my father, an Okie to the bone, and together they had three daughters. Far from her home and family my mother took care to teach my sisters and I the values of our Chinese heritage, a fact that I hold dear to my heart. Chinese New Years is by far one of the most important events in Chinese households as important as Christmas and is celebrated with gifts and food surrounded by family.
Being born in the year of the Horse I wanted to share with you my Chinese New Year including ways you can celebrate the New Year and the origin of the Chinese Zodiac.
|Illustration I created celebrating the Year of the Horse. Made with Ink & Digital.|
Above is a special illustration I made featuring the different personalities of the Horse. Horses are creative, energetic, stubborn, and independent. They are easy going, hard working, quick witted, and enigmatic but they can also be impatient, prone to moodiness, and lack confidence in themselves. Famous people born in the year of Horse include Rembrandt, Paul McCartney, Barbara Streisand, Jackie Chan, and Jerry Seinfeld.
To see how I made this piece continue to the end of this post.
|My young mother in traditional Chinese dress.|
Traditions of Chinese New Year
Red symbolizes many things for Chinese people; it’s the color of happiness, and celebration of good luck and fire. It holds significance especially on Chinese New Year as it drives away bad luck. Chinese people decorate their homes in red paper banners with wishes written on them such as good fortune, and long life. Hung bao literally translates into “red bag”, a red envelope containing lucky money, which is given to unmarried adults and children.
The lantern festival, held on the night of the full moon, is celebrated by adorning homes and streets in lanterns as dragons dance in the street. These dragons, made out of silk, paper and bamboo are operated by young men, dance and perform acrobatics for offerings. Offerings given to the dragons symbolize protection and good luck in the New Year.
New Years Eve is also very important as families gather together and feast on traditional dishes. Firecrackers are also lit the loud sounds drive away evil spirits.
|Small Dragon performing dance. Article here.|
How you can celebrate your Chinese New Year!
- Clean your home before the New Year, which is supposed to sweep away bad luck and bring in good fortune.
- Offer fruits and candy to the kitchen god.
- Decorate your home with the color red, and fresh flowers.
- Eat traditional dishes including fish, jai (liquor), sticky rice cake (lin guo), and dumplings.
- Wear the color red. Avoid wearing white, and black as these represent death and evil.
- Offer hung bao or red envelopes filled with money, which are given from elders, and married couples to unmarried adults, and children.
|My family and I visiting Taiwan.|
The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac
The King of Heaven held a competition among the animals that would serve as a way for Chinese people to record time. He created a cycle of 12 years and held a competition among the animals. The first 12 animals to cross the river would have a year named after each one.
The Rat and the Cat, who were friends, devised a plan to use the Ox to carry them across the river, as they were not strong swimmers. The Ox being so kind allowed them to ride on his back, however the Rat betrayed the Cat and pushed him into the river.
Upon reaching the riverbank, the rat quickly jumped onto land and reached the King of Heaven and so was named the first year, with Ox as the second. The third to reach the King of Heaven was the Tiger.
The Hare was fourth having hopped across the other animals to cross the river. The Hare ran so fast, his upper lip was split in half by a tree branch and has remained so ever since.
The Dragon arrived in fifth place, followed by the snake who came in sixth. The snake also ran so fast that all his legs broke and now slithers on its belly. The Horse placed seventh, while the Goat, Monkey, and Rooster crossed the river on a log. In his even pace the Dog arrived in eleventh place. Slowly the Pig crossed the river and was given the last place, when he arrived before the King of Heaven he asked, “Is there anything to eat?” driven by his appetite.
Thus the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac in order of succession: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
The Cat, feeling betrayed, has hated the Rat ever since.
|Family portrait in 1997. Myself in lower left corner.|
Below are some steps of my process in creating my New Year's 'Horses' illustration.
First I painted the silhouettes of the horses on Yupo watercolor paper, which is a fun easy way to play with texture and allows you to achieve numerous different feelings. After it dries you can simply scan in your painting and use it as the basis or as added layers for your final. You can buy Yupo paper in most art supply stores, usually in the watercolor section.
Then I played with movement in my sketchbook, again using the silhouettes of the horses and rubber cement as a masking fluid. By using the brush that most rubber cement applicators come with you can achieve brush-y and expressive mark making. I recently tried using Dr. Ph Martin's Radiant Concentrated Water Color in Black instead of my usual (and beloved) Ph Martin's Black Star. I loved it, I found that the water color concentrate held a purplish hue and because it acted more as watercolor was able to build up more depth.
Then I throw all these things together on Photoshop, trying to find a balance between the two layers and the layout of the horses.
I hope you enjoyed my post, and have a Happy New Year!