A Paper god (also known as Shenma or Zhima) is a type of woodblock print on paper of the images of gods and spirits, which is used by Chinese as a tool of communication between mortals and the deities. During some traditional Chinese festivals, such as the Spring Festival, paper gods are either burned during religious ceremonies or put up on the walls in different areas of the house. As an important genre of Chinese traditional woodblock print, paper god has a history of more than one thousand years and is widely spread across China. However, as a part of Chinese folk religion, paper gods are produced and used mainly in the rural area. As a result, Chinese scholars used to overlook paper god and hardly consider it a form of art. At the time of Chinese modernization, paper god, along with other folk belief, was considered superstation by the progressive modernists. From the revolution of 1911 to the Cultural Revolution, many of the prints and woodblocks were lost and destroyed. It was not until the 1980s when Chinese government and scholars publicly recognized the artistic and cultural value of paper gods.
Since there is a large variety of paper gods from different regions of China, it is on possible to cover them all in this a single project. This exhibition will only focus on the paper god prints from northern China, mainly Beijing and Neiqiu, Hebei Province, because paper gods from these areas are general better preserved and documented compared to that from other regions.