Niuchang, 1868: Mesny joins the Sichuan Army

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War, Tang Jiong Leave a Comment

In late summer 1868, Mesny travelled down through northern Guizhou to rendezvous with the Sichuan Army at Niuchang town. There are over fifty places called Niuchang (“Bull Market”) in Guizhou; before China adopted Western days of the week, markets rotated from village to village on a twelve day circuit, each day named after Chinese zodiac animals. It took a lot …

The Road to Weng’an

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War, Old Road, Tang Jiong Leave a Comment

In 1870, facing a collapse in morale, exacerbated by in-fighting amongst his own generals, the Sichuan Army commander Tang Jiong had no option but to abandon his eighteen-month-old campaign against the Miao at Chong’an. Mesny joined in the Sichuan Army’s dispirited withdrawal northwest from Chong’an to Weng’an along gu yidao, the old granite-flagged post road. Today a stretch of the road …

Seeking Tiekuang Po

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War Leave a Comment

A sunny market day in Chong’an: chaos. Narrow streets crammed with diminutive but solidly built Miao grandmothers dressed in dark blue with frilled tea-towel turbans, grandchildren strapped to their backs in quilted pads. Some of the babies also wore “tiger” hats, complete with silver icons and tufted ears, to ward off bad luck. The grandmothers were no respecters of age …

Su Yuanchun: The Pit of Ten Thousand Men

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War, Su Yuanchun 2 Comments

Mr Li and I arrived at Shidong after a long trip on foot down the mountain from Bandeng, following a centuries-old trail. There had been a moment of excitement when we bumped into a woodcutter with two aggressive hunting dogs, and some fun banter with a party of Miao returning happily drunk from a funeral, who berated Mister Li for …

Bao Dadu: Victory at Huangpiao, 1869

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War, Zhang Xiumei Leave a Comment

In early May, 1869, Mesny and the Sichuan Army were busy storming Miao fortifications on the heights of Tiekuang Po near Chong’an. On the same day, another battle was going between Miao forces and the Hunan Army some 20km to the northeast at Huangpiao (or Pekuo as it’s called locally), a narrow plateau with steep cliffs dropping into the valley …

Zhang Xiumei and the Miao War

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War, Zhang Xiumei 3 Comments

The Miao Uprising in Guizhou (1855–1873) was – cutting out all the fiddly details – a rebellion against the  Chinese administration by the majority Hmong (Miao) ethnic minority. The Miao are concentrated in Qiandongnan, southeastern Guizhou province, a mountainous region where the only Chinese presence was in a handful of trading posts and garrison towns guarding the lowland roads. Once these had been overrun, …

The Tale of White Snake

David Leffman nianhua, Uncategorized, woodblock, Woodblock print, Yangliuqing Leave a Comment

This final woodblock is from Yangliuqing, a village in the western outskirts of the port city of Tianjin (around 150km southeast of Beijing). It depicts a popular folk story, “The Tale of White Snake”, and meets all the requirements of a typical Yangliuqing print: very large (around a metre wide), very detailed, technically accomplished and with most of the colour painted on by hand, rather than printed. I …

Empty City Stratagem

David Leffman nianhua, Three Kingdoms, Weifang, woodblock, Woodblock print Leave a Comment

Staying with woodblock prints, here’s one from Weifang, Shandong, a city also known for making traditional Chinese kites. It’s one of the very few I have that’s actually signed (by Zhang Chuanxin). I’d characterise Weifang’s prints as having very fine detail, a distinctive purple-yellow-pink palette, and that strange flooring of parallel lines. Set as a scene in a play, the story …