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 6 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 …

Chinese Tigers

David Leffman nianhua, Tiger, woodblock, Woodblock print, Wuqiang Leave a Comment

Real tigers are feared in China, but their legendary strength makes them popular protective creatures in folklore. They appear in all sorts of folk art, including on Miao baby hats, worn to scare away evil spirits; Qing-dynasty rank badges (for a second-grade military official); Tibetan tiger rugs (a symbol of authority); and, of course, on woodblock prints. Above is another print from Wuqiang, …

Pure Land Woodblock

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

I bought this woodblock – the actual block, not a print – at a market in Dali, Yunnan. The title is “A Prayer for Rebirth in the Pure Land”, mantra for a popular Mahayana Buddhist sect. Prints would have been used in their thousands at local folk festivals. Centre top is Buddha seated on a lotus, flanked by strings of silver and gold …

Wuqiang Woodblocks: Yue Fei

David Leffman nianhua, Woodblock print, Wuqiang, Yue Fei, Zhuxian Leave a Comment

Here’s another narrative print from Wuqiang – the story of Yue Fei. As mentioned in an earlier post, Yue Fei (1103–1142) was a patriotic Song-dynasty general who fought against the invading Jurchen (Jin) armies, precursor to the Mongol hordes who would later overthrow the Song and occupy all China. Ironically, it was Yue Fei’s success on the battlefield that led to his …

Wuqiang Woodblocks: Lord Bao

David Leffman Lord Bao, nianhua, Woodblock print, Wuqiang Leave a Comment

Wuqiang town, Hebei province, is another woodblock printing centre whose designs are often cartoon-like illustrations of folk tales, mostly coloured in red, blue and yellow. This pair depict episodes from Three Heroes and Five Gallants (三侠五义), a novel about the career of Lord Bao and his valiant lieutenants. Though the stories are fictional, Bao Zheng (AD 999–1062) was a real Song-dynasty administrator who became famous for …

Zhuxian Woodblock Prints 3

David Leffman nianhua, Woodblock print, Zhuxian Leave a Comment

Another few nianhua woodblock prints from Zhuxian. The first is one of those that you just have to be a local to understand. I was told the title is “Flying Bear Exits the Drapes”, but beyond that you’ll have to make up your own story: The tale behind this next one, “Jiulong Mountain”, would be fairly familiar to many Chinese; it’s an episode from the life …