Back in nineteenth-century China, “paper horses” – woodblock prints of folk gods, used for home worship or burned at special ceremonies – were made and sold in their millions. But, printed on cheap, insubstantial paper and often destroyed within hours of purchase, few have survived.
An album of seventy-nine original paper horse prints surfaced in 2020 after years in storage, and bears mysterious similarities to collections made by missionaries Lewis Calvin Walmsley and Anne Goodrich in Beijing during the 1930s – at a time when both woodblock printing and the use of paper horses was dying out in China.
Now published as Paper Horses: Woodblock Prints of Gods from Northern China, this album offers an introduction to Chinese folk belief, with biographies and full-colour images of 93 wealth and weather gods, door guardians, fox spirits, deified warriors, bodhisattvas, patrons of industries, and even goddesses of smallpox and toilets.
Available through all your favourite online bookstores, or direct from the publisher, Blacksmith Books (with free postage in Southeast Asia).