Rams, Cabbages and Murder

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

On 17 November, 1874, the Peking Gazette – which published official statements from the Chinese court – made the following announcement: “The Court of Censorate forwards another appeal lodged on behalf of a woman of the Yuhang District in Zhejiang, complaining that her husband has been falsely accused of murdering a man named Ge Pinlian, the accuser being his wife, …

Cicadas, paper horses, and Chinese gods

David Leffman Uncategorized 2 Comments

Here’s some background to my first ebook, “Paper Horses: Woodblock Prints of Chinese Gods from 1930s Beijing”, which you can find via Amazon or Apple Books. In 2020 I bought an album containing seventy-nine “paper horses” (紙馬) – simple woodblock prints of Chinese folk deities – from a dealer in the United States. Each print was numbered with a sticker …

Across Guangxi By Boat

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In March 1879, after spending nearly two years on the road between China and Europe, Mesny left the southern metropolis of Guangzhou to head home to his wife in Guizhou province, a journey of perhaps 1000km. Renting a roomy daobazi (刀把子) or “knife-handle” houseboat, named after the shape of their sterns, Mesny followed the Xi river to Wuzhou before turning …

Cats, Rats, Marriage and Messages

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“The Rats Marrying Off Their Daughter” (老鼠嫁女) was a popular theme for Chinese woodblock prints during the nineteenth century, and different designs were produced by studios all over the country. The title of this one, from Yangjiabu in Shandong province, translates freely as “A misfortunate rat got married in town; The groom was a cat, who swallowed her down”. The …

Lockets, locks and longevity

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In 2018 I bought this antique child’s locket (鎖片) in Dali, an old walled caravan town in China’s Yunnan province. Today Dali has become a bohemian holiday retreat for China’s urban middle class, but from the seventh to the thirteenth centuries served as the capital of the Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms, whose borders reached from Tibet to Thailand, and at …

Xiage’s yangong deity shrine

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

I took this photo in 2010 at Yangong Ci (檐公祠), a wayside shrine in the Dong hamlet of Xiage, two kilometres uphill from the popular wooden village of Zhaoxing (肇兴). Yangong Ci translates literally as “Lord Eave’s Ancestral Shrine”, but yangong is in fact a Chinese transliteration of the Dong term for something like “home of the venerable grandfather”. The …

Feathers, Fakes and Fees

David Leffman Antiques, Fakes Leave a Comment

I’m no expert in Chinese antiques, but I have spent a lot of time browsing antiques markets all over the country, looking at everything from old woodblock prints to iron cannon and pieces of nineteenth-century official regalia. These include rank decorations such as “hat buttons” (maoding, 帽顶), a coloured bead mounted on top of an official’s headgear, and “mandarin squares” …

A Japanese Map of Qing China

David Leffman map, Uncategorized Leave a Comment

A while back I bought this map of China, hand-drawn in ink, from a dealer in Japan. Other things also point to it being a Japanese-made map: the translucent, resilient paper, typical of Japanese manufacture; an emphasis on marked routes from Japan (a country that China showed little interest in until recent times); and the general style, similar to Japanese …

Mesny in the Shanghai Evening Courier

David Leffman Mesny, Miao 1 Comment

In 1868 Mesny landed a job of arms instructor with the Sichuan Army, and went off to Guizhou province to fight against ethnic Miao rebels. He spent much of the next two years around the town of Chong’an in southeastern Guizhou, teaching the Chinese soldiers how to use modern firearms and field guns, fighting in several battles, and watching the …

Mesny in China’s Millions

David Leffman Mesny, Miao, Miao War Leave a Comment

On 19 February 1877, British missionaries Charles Judd (Zhu Mingyang, 祝名扬) and James Broumton (Ba Zicheng, 巴子成) arrived at Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, to establish the city’s first Protestant outpost. They recorded their impressions of the city – including their welcome from Mesny – in China’s Millions, journal of the China Inland Mission. On their way to Guiyang, Judd …