Jinshan County

The artist colony in Jinshan County is about two hours outside of Shanghai. It is housed in a one-story, multi-wing building that looks like a community recreation center — and in fact functions in that capacity for many citizens. Peasant painters in Jinshan County get their painting supplies at the art center and some actually paint in studios at the art center. Many artists, however, paint at home at night after working all day in the fields.

Artists' paintings are sold through the art center and through its connections in other parts of China. For example, paintings from Jinshan County can be found in galleries in Hong Kong and at the government-sponsored Centers for Culture and Arts in Shanghai and Beijing. Artists are allowed to earn a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the paintings to supplement their farming income.

Regardless of composition or theme of paintings from Jinshan, there is a strong common element. The paintings depict life as colorful, happy scenes - which sharply contrasts with their often drab and arduous realities. There is a distinct look to Jinshan paintings, among all the painters -- to the extent that it is difficult to identify one artist's work from another. Many times, paintings are not signed or chopped, making artist identification virtually impossible. Some of the most famous artists' works are identifiable, however, especially those of Cao Xiuwen and Zhang Xingying. When we know the artist name, we indicate it along with the description of the painting below.

Paintings tend to cluster around celebrations and events such as marriage, holidays, and seasons, as discussed below.


Groom’s Procession
There are many traditions in the Chinese peasants' lives that relate to marriage, as in any culture. Several paintings in our collection depict some of these traditions. In "Groom's Procession" by Lee Chou-Ying, the groom's family and friends carry the groom to the wedding ceremony, along with gifts for the bride's family and the new household. The procession makes its way through the forest, celebrating the occasion with horns and cymbals. The unusual colors in the spreading tree mark the festive nature of the occasion. Even the trees seem to celebrate.


Wedding Day In "Wedding Day" by Cao Xiumen, everyone in the village celebrates the wedding day, bringing gifts and excitement to the new household. The painting brims with energy created by the brilliance of color and movement in the composition.

Chinese New Years

New Years in an important holiday for peasants in Mainland China, and as a result, is the subject of many paintings. In "New Year's Masks" artist Zhang Xingying captures the playfulness of the celebration in the masks and lanterns of the revelers. The painting literally glows with the festive excitement of the subjects.

New Year’s Masks


A Snowy New Year Other depictions are seen in paintings "A Snowy New Year", "The Temple at New Year's" and "Dragon Parade". In all of these paintings, the subjects carry lanterns, cymbals and drums as part of the traditional celebrations.


  The Temple at New Year's The Temple at New Year’s


Dragon Parade Dragon Parade



 In "Basket of Good Fortune" the artist presents symbols of wishing good fortune for the new year. An interesting sidebar, the artist who created this painting was in her 90s when she painted it. She was also an accomplished paper-cut artist, which is the art of cutting paper into intricate designs. The influence of the papercut medium is seen in her painting composition.

Basket of Good Fortune


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