Chinese Tigers

David Leffmannianhua, 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, …

Wuqiang Woodblocks: Lord Bao

David LeffmanLord 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 Leffmannianhua, 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 …

Zhuxian Woodblock Prints 2

David Leffmannianhua, Woodblock print, Zhuxian Leave a Comment

As mentioned in the previous post, Zhuxian’s woodblock prints illustrate a range of subjects, often carrying a hidden message. Some themes would be familiar to Chinese across the country, others utterly obscure to all but locals. Here’s a good one to kick off with. The two insect-like creatures buzzing around the rider’s hat are in fact red bats, hong fu – a pun …

Zhuxian Woodblock Prints 1

David Leffmannianhua, Woodblock print, Zhuxian Leave a Comment

My whole interest in Asia began with studying woodblock printing while I was still at school – I even ended up carving blocks myself – so here’s the first in a few posts about China’s woodblock printing tradition, focusing on current centres for the craft. A century ago, probably every small town in China had a studio shop run by a family of artisans, …