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 …