Three Kings Temple festival at Heli 和理三王宮

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Sanwang Gong (三王宮) – the Three King’s Palace, or Temple – sits out in the fields at Heli (和理), a farming hamlet close to the Duliu river in northern Guangxi province. It’s hard to miss the temple’s tall, austerely whitewashed front and wedge-shaped fire-baffle gables; there’s also an accompanying wind-and-rain bridge, covered over and built entirely of wood, a feature …

福善吉慶 Fu Shan Ji Qing

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Here’s an interesting print from Yangliuqing. It’s large, at about 50cm x 95cm, and shows a mother sitting on her day bed with two infant boys, while a maid attends them. The style of their fine clothing and furnishings suggests a wealthy Qing dynasty household.  The picture is packed with auspicious iconography. Each character of the written title Fu Shan …

Wu Caizhen of Foshan 佛山伍彩珍

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Foshan, now a westerly suburb of Guangzhou in southern China’s Guangdong province, was once a separate town in its own right, famous for its handicrafts. I’ve written elsewhere of Mr Feng Bingtang, who ran Foshan’s last surviving woodblock studio until his death in 2019, but during its Qing-dynasty heyday Foshan had over one hundred woodblock-printing businesses, employing several thousand people …

A Demon-Suppressing Charm

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Here’s a rubbing offering protection against demons taken from a stone tablet in the Chunyang temple at Taiyuan (太原純陽宮), the capital of Shanxi province. Chunyang temple was possibly founded during the thirteenth century, though some sources date it to the Wanli reign (1572–1620). Laid out with nine halls and five stone-flagged courtyards, there are gnarled old trees, arched gateways built …

Suppression of the Taiping Rebels: 剿滅粵匪圖

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Here’s a woodblock Victory Print from the 1850s titled “Suppression of the Taiping Rebels”. Well, more or less; the title actually calls the Taipings粵匪, “Yue Bandits”. The first-century BC Yue kingdom included parts of Guangdong, Guangxi and Vietnam, used here because the Taiping movement began in Guangxi (the rebels were known by other names too, such as “Longhairs”). Anyway, Victory …

Daoists and Tigers: Zhang Daoling at Shangqing Palace

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In popular lore Shangqing Palace (上清宫), a formerly important Daoist temple at Longhu Shan (Dragon-Tiger Mountain) in Jiangxi province, is probably best-known for the opening chapters of Shi Nai’an’s fourteenth-century novel Outlaws of the Marsh – aka The Water Margin – a heroic account of renegades defying the corrupt Song court. According to the novel, 108 malignant spirits are imprisoned …

Immortality and Rockets: the Legend of Chang E

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China’s Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. The roundness of the full moon that night represents “wholeness”, the getting together of communities and families to gather in the harvest or to simply enjoy each other’s company by eating mooncakes. These two prints, both collected around 1930 by the Reverend Hallock, tell the story …

Two Guanyins

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Another print from early 1930s Shanghai courtesy of Reverend Hallock, this time of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Guanyin. She’s shown in two simultaneous incarnations: the Bringer of Children, and riding the Aoyu, that fish-like sea monster at the bottom of the print. Although the Aoyu aspect represents Guanyin subduing evil in general terms, at Shanghai and coastal eastern China this …