Kitchen God Print for 1911 宣統三年歲次辛亥

David LeffmanUncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s a woodblock print of the kitchen god, Zaojun, and his wife. These follow a standard pattern and while a nice, colourful example, there’s nothing remarkable about the illustration. The small uppermost panel shows Guanyin (note her parrot to the right, her vase to the left), attended by her child acolytes Longnü and Shancai. The gold ingots at the far …

Xiao Ma Wu in “Spinning Cotton” (小馬五紡綿花)

David LeffmanUncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s a print by the Dai Lianzeng workshop (戴廉增), Yangliuqing’s oldest-known woodblock studio. Dai Lianzeng himself (1735–1795) seems to have inherited an earlier business dating back to the seventeenth century; by the mid-nineteenth century the workshop was reputedly producing over a million prints a year. They closed in the 1930s. Simply designed and not especially accomplished – the overpainting is …

Bai jiama from Shangguan

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In 2018 I visited Zhang Ruilong (张瑞龙), a sixth-generation carver of Bai minority jiama woodblock prints, at his studio out in the countryside near Shangguan, north of Dali old town in Yunnan. This is probably the last area in all China to use jiama prints on a daily basis as part of their Buddhist, Daoist and local Benzhu folk religious …

Six Prints from Taohuawu Studios

David LeffmanUncategorized 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 (桃花坞), 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 ransacked, first by …

Fulfilling a Vow at Xiangshan 香山還願

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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

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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 LeffmanKeith 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

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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

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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 …