Black and white photograph depicting a young boy kneeling before his family shrine with his back to the camera. His parents are seated on either side of the altar, their gaze directed at him. His father, wearing a long robe and a jacket (chang pao magua), is seated to the left and his mother, dressed in padded trousers and a jacket, is seated on the right of the image. Scrolls with Chinese decorations hang in the background.
New Year is the most important and significant of all Chinese festivals. It is a time when debts are paid and wishes are made for a healthy and prosperous new year. It is a time of family reunion and celebration when respects are paid to elders and ancestors. This is one of Hedda Morrison's more staged photographs, depicting the interior of a well-to-do family home. The Buddhist altar is decorated with an altar set comprising a central incense burner flanked by vases, candles and offerings of food and wine, with images of deities and paper cuts behind. Hanging on the wall are four brush and ink paintings and two calligraphic couplets. The mother is seated on a chair covered with silk brocade, her feet appear to have been formerly bound. The son kneels in front of the altar which is covered with an altar cloth embroidered with stylised longevity characters and cranes. A foreign business calendar can be seen in the top left corner of the image, partially in frame.
This is one of a large number of photographs documenting local customs that were taken by Hedda Morrison (1908-1991) during her years of residence in Peking (Beijing), China 1933-1946.
Reproduced in Hedda Morrison, 'A photographer in Old Peking', Hong Kong, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 252, with the caption 'A boy paying respects to his elders and ancestors in a wealthy Chinese home at New Year'. Exhibited in 'Peking: 1933-1946 - A photographic impression', Menzies Library, Australian National University, 17-30 June 1967; 'An Asian experience: 1933-67' organised by the Asian Studies Association of Australia, Fisher Library Foyer, University of Sydney, 12-30 May 1986.
Gift of Mr Alastair Morrison, 1992