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 …

Zhuxian Woodblock Prints 2

David Leffman nianhua, 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 Leffman nianhua, 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, …

Qing Propaganda Prints from the First Sino-Japanese War

David Leffman Liu Yongfu, Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan, Woodblock print Leave a Comment

In 1894, China and Japan went to war over control of Korea. China had long claimed Korea as a client kingdom, while a recently-industrialised Japan wanted unfettered access to the peninsula’s mineral deposits – not to mention the chance of occupying territory right on China’s northeastern doorstep. Skipping the details, China lost the war – both its armies and northern navy were convincingly beaten …

Verbiest’s Map of China

David Leffman map, Mesny, Verbiest, Woodblock print Leave a Comment

Back in June 2016, I was a bit stunned to find this huge, woodblock-printed world map (坤與全圖) hanging up at an antiques stall in Beijing. It wasn’t for sale, and it took me some time to sweet-talk them around the “no photographs” sign (in fact they only let me take this picture because the quality of my ipod camera is so …