The God of Wine

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

The Venerable Wine-Making Immortal, inventor and patron of brewing and distilling (most Chinese “wines” are spirits), shown stroking his beard, surrounded by wine jars. According to some accounts the immortal was a legendary character named Du Kang (杜康), while others identify him as Shao Kang (少康), one of the kings of the Xia era (2070–1600 BC). The couplets either side …

The Immortal Archer Zhang Yuanxiao

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s a woodblock print from Yangliuqing village west of Tianjin, one of nineteenth century China’s most prolific folk-craft centres. It shows the Daoist immortal Zhang Yuanxiao (張遠霄) from Meishan in Sichuan province, driving off the malignant black Heavenly Hound, shown flying away top right on red wings. The hound was believed to cause eclipses by eating the sun, and could …

Fires Exploding Pearls!

David Leffman woodblock, Woodblock print Leave a Comment

Here’s a print of Zhao Gongming (趙公明) on his tiger, holding a gold ingot and his magical sword breaker, which fires out explosive “sea-smoothing” pearls. In the sixteenth-century novel Creation of the Gods, Zhao is a general from Mount Emei in Sichuan province, who fights for the corrupt and crumbling Shang dynasty. After being killed by the Daoist Jiang Ziya, …

勅建雞足名山全圖: A Complete Picture of the Famous Holy Monument, Mount Jizu

David Leffman Antiques, Buddhism, Dali, map, Uncategorized, woodblock, Woodblock print, Yunnan Leave a Comment

Here’s a woodblock-printed map of Yunnan province’s Jizu Shan (雞足山) – Chickenfoot Mountain – which peaks at 3240m east of Erhai Lake and the old walled town of Dali. According to the artist Huang Xiangjian, who painted a colour landscape scroll of the mountain in 1656, Jizu Shan got its name because “it is formed with three ridges in front …

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, …