Six Prints from Taohuawu Studios

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s a set of six prints showing scenes from Chinese folklore and late nineteenth-century street life, which originally appeared c1876–1910. They are attributed to studios at Taohuawu, a northern suburb of Suzhou which was famous from at least the eighteenth century for its skilled and innovative printing workshops. But during the Taiping Uprising (1850–1864) Suzhou was destroyed, first by the …

Fulfilling a Vow at Xiangshan 香山還願

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s a woodblock illustration to a folktale and opera set at the Daxiangshan temple outside Miaowan in Shaanxi province (陕西省耀县庙湾镇大香山寺). This complex dates back to the fourth century and sits high on a mountain ridge above the town, with temple halls dotting the summits. The story goes that King Zhuang had a daughter named Miaoshan, who despite her marriage wanted …

The Mianzhu Woodblock Rubbing Mystery

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Here are two ink rubbings, apparently taken from engraved stone tablets, of deities Zhao Gongming, the military wealth god (riding the tiger); and the sword-wielding demon-catcher Zhong Kui. The Chinese characters 鎮(家)宅 identify them as door gods protecting a household. But are they what they seem? Engraving stone tablets with the calligraphy and paintings of famous artists has a long …

The White Horse General (白馬將軍)

David Leffman Keith Stevens, Three Kingdoms Leave a Comment

Here’s a Chinese deity statue I bought recently, mostly because it once belonged to one of my China mentors, Keith Stevens. We met around 2012 while I was researching The Mercenary Mandarin, a biography of the British adventurer William Mesny; Stevens had written a paper on Mesny years before and provided plenty of pointers about his life. But Stevens’ real …

Three Kings Temple festival at Heli 和理三王宮

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Sanwang Gong (三王宮) – the Three King’s Palace, or Temple – sits out in the fields at Heli (和理), a farming hamlet close to the Duliu river in northern Guangxi province. It’s hard to miss the temple’s tall, austerely whitewashed front and wedge-shaped fire-baffle gables; there’s also an accompanying wind-and-rain bridge, covered over and built entirely of wood, a feature …

福善吉慶 Fu Shan Ji Qing

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s an interesting print from Yangliuqing. It’s large, at about 50cm x 95cm, and shows a mother sitting on her day bed with two infant boys, while a maid attends them. The style of their fine clothing and furnishings suggests a wealthy Qing dynasty household.  The picture is packed with auspicious iconography. Each character of the written title Fu Shan …

Wu Caizhen of Foshan 佛山伍彩珍

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Foshan, now a westerly suburb of Guangzhou in southern China’s Guangdong province, was once a separate town in its own right, famous for its handicrafts. I’ve written elsewhere of Mr Feng Bingtang, who ran Foshan’s last surviving woodblock studio until his death in 2019, but during its Qing-dynasty heyday Foshan had over one hundred woodblock-printing businesses, employing several thousand people …

A Demon-Suppressing Charm

David Leffman Uncategorized 1 Comment

Here’s a rubbing offering protection against demons taken from a stone tablet in the Chunyang temple at Taiyuan (太原純陽宮), the capital of Shanxi province. Chunyang temple was possibly founded during the thirteenth century, though some sources date it to the Wanli reign (1572–1620). Laid out with nine halls and five stone-flagged courtyards, there are gnarled old trees, arched gateways built …

Suppression of the Taiping Rebels: 剿滅粵匪圖

David Leffman Uncategorized 1 Comment

Here’s a woodblock Victory Print from the 1850s titled “Suppression of the Taiping Rebels”. Well, more or less; the title actually calls the Taipings粵匪, “Yue Bandits”. The first-century BC Yue kingdom included parts of Guangdong, Guangxi and Vietnam, used here because the Taiping movement began in Guangxi (the rebels were known by other names too, such as “Longhairs”). Anyway, Victory …