Nine Times Nine Pictures to Dispel the Cold

Published Categorised as Art & Design, Life in General No Comments on Nine Times Nine Pictures to Dispel the Cold

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Last year I wrote about MR James, Susan Cooper, the Box of Delights and Mercury Rev on this day, which remains appro­pri­ate.

I’m currently ill, quar­ant­in­ing, and await­ing the result of a PCR test. Christ­mas isn’t happen­ing around here (and who knows if we’ll have a sudden lock­down in the UK this week).

I was read­ing about a north­ern Chinese tradi­tion simil­ar to an advent calen­dar that starts on this day. It’s 81 days until the Spring, and that makes a neat grid of 9×9, lead­ing to the tradi­tion of Nine Times Nine Pictures to Dispel the Cold (九九消寒图 – or “nine-nine chilling diagram” as Google Trans­late would have it) – draw or colour a picture every day to get you through the winter.

The are also vari­ous pre-prin­ted options avail­able – one of the most popu­lar is this little poem about willow trees wait­ing for the spring- 庭前垂柳珍重待春风 (the design on the chart runs the tradi­tion­al way right to left- the squares are numbered). Each char­ac­ter has nine calli­graphy strokes, so every day you colour in one stroke (there is a specif­ic order to writ­ing Chinese char­ac­ters, which every­one learns at school), and at the end of the winter the whole poem is coloured.

Or this tree with nine blos­soms, each with nine petals. Every day you colour in a petal.

There is also this weath­er chart designed as tradi­tion coins in an envel­ope, where you colour in each coin follow­ing the key accord­ing to how the weath­er was each day.

Of course people also do their own creat­ive projects with draw­ing or calli­graphy over the 81 days. One that partic­u­larly inter­ested me was Chinese illus­trat­or Woshibai’s project- he’s done a comic poster prin­ted like an advent calen­dar with doors, where you reveal a new frame over each of the 81 days. (His other comics are also well worth check­ing out).

I feel like it’s going to be a long, dull and tedi­ous winter this year. It’s very likely this will be my second lock­down birth­day. I’m booked to go back to Austria for work at the end of Janu­ary for a while, but who knows if that will happen or not. So I decided to see if I could do my own simple 81 days of draw­ing project with very small draw­ings. I made a 9×9 grid, and prin­ted it onto an A3 sheet of cart­ridge paper. You can down­load the pdf here if you want to do it.


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