Verbiest’s World Map 坤與全圖

David Leffman Antiques, map, Mesny, Verbiest, William Gill, Woodblock print Leave a Comment

In 2016 I was extraordinarily lucky to come across this woodblock-printed world map at an antiques stall in Beijing. (The poor quality of the photo is because they didn’t want me taking one, and I had to sneak it from a distance with my ancient, low-res ipod touch camera. They wouldn’t sell me the print either.) The original version dates …

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 …

A True View of Sichuan (Road)

David Leffman Uncategorized 4 Comments

Back in March 2019 I made quick trips to the Chinese woodblock printing centres of Zhuxian (Henan), Wuqiang (Hebei) and Foshan (Guangdong), partly to get some idea of the current state of this folk art. Of course I took the opportunity to stock up on prints too… Asking at a shop outside the Wuqiang Woodblock Printing Museum if they had …

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 …