Yangliuqing is an ancient town with a history over thousand years in the west of Tianjin. Thanks to the development of high-speed railway, it becomes more and more convenient for tourists get there. Yangliuqing is a good place for traveling because of the good Feng shui. Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the first artificial canal in the word, lies in the south of the town. In Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong often went down to Jiangnan (south area of Yangtze River, one of the most beautiful areas in China), but after his traveling here, seeing poplars reaching to the sky and willows touching the earth, he gave this place a new name Yangliuqing (Green Poplar and Willow). Besides Feng shui, the good reputation of Yangliuqing is also from New Year pictures and Shi Courtyard (Yangliuqing Museum).
New Year pictures:
In China, it’s very influential that the folk arts are connected with festivals or some traditions. And the New Year Pictures or paintings is one of these folk arts and very famous in China. The representatives of these folk pictures are Tianjin Yangliuqing in Northern China and Suzhou Taohuawu in Southeast China. And Yangliuqing to some extent is widely famous in northern China for its traditional skills or techniques used in painting as well as the famous stories shown in paintings.
Yangliuqing Town is in the western suburb of Tianjin. From the Chongzhen period (1628-1644) of the Ming Dynasty, folk artists of New Year pictures and peasants began to collect sketches and carved wooden blocks and created unique craftsmanship of New Year pictures.
Being one of the most excellent block New Year pictures in the folk art of China, Yangliuqing New Year Pictures originated from the Town of Yang liuqing in the early 17th century. So, it was named after the town. The New Year pictures are made mainly by combined techniques of wood-block printing and hand painting. Being ingenious and unique in composition, fresh and smooth in line, vivid and life-like in form, and strong and rich in the flavor of life, Yangliuqing New Year Pictures generally take ancient beauties, lovely children, folk customs or stories from classical operas, myths and legends as their source materials.
The Yangliuqing New Year pictures are characterized by the combination of block print and colored hand drawing. The painting tradition is passed down from the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties and the integration of techniques of Gongbi figure paintings (gongbi is a traditional Chinese realistic painting characterized by fine brushwork and close attention to details) into the folk New Year pictures enabled an organic combination of wood engraving with hand painting.
Shi Courtyard, also named Yangliuqing Museum now, honored as the first residence in western of Tianjin, attracts lots of tourists from home and abroad every year.
This charming complex was completed in 1875, including more than 200 rooms. It is one of the best preserved and the biggest residential buildings in China. The owner of this complex is Shi, one of the eight famous families in Tianjin during Qing dynasty. With family’s wealth, the courtyard was a representative traditional Chinese architecture and showed the luxury life of Tianjin people. Therefore, the unique style of this construction influenced the latter residence.
The entire museum has not only recovered the Shi Courtyard’s layout at that time, and also shown Tianjin’s wedding custom, such as the wedding ceremony scene. In the Tianjin brick carving hall, there are more than 130 brick carving artwork which belong to the late Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China; In the Tianjin folk custom hall, micro lifelike street scene, business shops and so on, indicate the commercial prosperous scene in the late Qing; In the Yangliuqing New Year painting hall, as the treasure of the Chinese folk craft, the displayed paintings reflect Tianjin people's folk culture. Certainly, you can buy some Yangliuqing New Year paintings as souvenirs or gifts for your family and friends. In recent years, it becomes a shooting base for Ming and Qing Dynasties’ theme film and TV play. So, maybe you will meet your favorite Chinese actors here by chance.
All in all, Shi Courtyard is a place worth visiting from history angle, cultural art angle, folk custom angle and residence construction's aspect.