Taibai Shan Map, Mid-Autumn Festival 1700 太白全圖

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s a map of Tai Bai Shan (3750m), the highest mountain in central China’s Qinlin range, which rises about 100km southwest of Xi’an city. The name comes from the mountain’s summit, which shines white with snow for most of the year; “Tai Bai” is the Chinese for Venus, brightest planet in the sky. The map is a rubbing taken from …

The Guan Yu stone rubbing mystery

David Leffman Uncategorized 1 Comment

Here’s a rubbing taken from an engraved stone tablet – a stela – of Guan Yu, a third-century general later deified as the incarnation of martial righteousness. Guan is riding the legendary Red Hare, a horse which could gallop “1000 miles in a day”, and holds his trademark halberd, Green Dragon. Dangling from rings above Guan Yu’s head is a …

勅建雞足名山全圖: A Complete Picture of the Famous Holy Monument, Mount Jizu

David Leffman Antiques, Buddhism, Dali, map, Uncategorized, woodblock, Woodblock print, Yunnan Leave a Comment

Here’s a woodblock-printed map of Yunnan province’s Jizu Shan (雞足山) – Chickenfoot Mountain – which peaks at 3240m east of Erhai Lake and the old walled town of Dali. According to the artist Huang Xiangjian, who painted a colour landscape scroll of the mountain in 1656, Jizu Shan got its name because “it is formed with three ridges in front …

Rank Badge Beasts

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This hand-coloured Chinese woodblock print from Yangliuqing, a famous craft centre outside of Tianjin city in northern China, came up recently at auction. The title, wenjing wuwei (文經武緯) literally means “civil warp, military woof” – the idea that civil and military departments should work closely together to govern the country. In reality, civil officials, who were only appointed after years …

Hallock’s Gods

David Leffman Uncategorized 1 Comment

It’s unusual to be able to date old Chinese woodblock prints – the same designs were often used for decades, and the cheap paper that they’re printed on ages badly (I’ve got a sun-bleached stove god print with a calendar for 1989, which looks at least a century older). However, I do know that the three prints below all date …

Miao Clay Whistles

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

There are very few rural temples in southeast Guizhou. Most people here are from the Miao ethnic minority, not Han Chinese; they have their own beliefs, and don’t build the usual Daoist-Buddhist-Confucian complexes you find elsewhere in China. However, all of Guizhou’s towns began life as Chinese military outposts or trading centres, not Miao settlements, and there are a few …

Yang Yuke 杨玉科

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Yang Yuke (杨玉科; 1838–1885) was an ethnic Bai warlord from Yingpan village in Yunnan province. During the Muslim Uprising (1856–73) he raised a private army and fought on the Chinese side against the rebels, under the mentorship of general Cen Yuying. It was Yang’s forces that finally captured the Muslim capital, Dali, and executed their rebel leader Du Wenxiu in …

Fengdu

David Leffman Uncategorized 2 Comments

In 2010, I was with Narrelle on the south bank of the Yangtze river in Fengdu, one of the towns that was demolished and completely rebuilt higher ground to cope with rising water levels after construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The point of coming here was that over on the north bank is Ming Shan, a row of hills …

The Birdsville Races

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I wrote this piece for the book “World Party”, after a weekend at the races in 1993. Looking back, there are no photos of the races themselves, or even a horse. Oh well. Come September, locals flee the dusty desert township of Birdsville, as a six-thousand-strong crowd descends for a weekend of hard drinking – and, if they sober up …

Verbiest’s World Map 坤與全圖

David Leffman Antiques, map, Mesny, Verbiest, William Gill, Woodblock print Leave a Comment

In 2016 I was extraordinarily lucky to come across this woodblock-printed world map at an antiques stall in Beijing. (The poor quality of the photo is because they didn’t want me taking one, and I had to sneak it from a distance with my ancient, low-res ipod touch camera. They wouldn’t sell me the print either.) The original version dates …