Chinese calligraphy and painting manual from 1633 now online, in full
September 11, 2015 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Since 1933, the Cambridge University Library has had a pristine copy of Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu, the Ten Bamboo Studio collection of calligraphy and painting from 1633. Because the book was so fragile, the butterfly bound (Google books preview) manual for teachers of art and writing was not opened until it could be properly digitized. That day has come, and the entire book is online, giving the world a view of “the earliest and the most beautiful example of multicolor printing anywhere in the world,” according to Charles Aylmer, head of the Chinese department at Cambridge University Library.

To elaborate, these are not the first prints with multiple colors per image. That process came a century before in China (Google books preview). Shizhuzhai Shuhua Pu is the first use of a technique called polychrome xylography, or Douban (assorted block), which look like watercolors with their gradients of hue. The method was invented by the artist and printmaker Hu Zhengyan.

Another early example of this painstaking process is Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden (Chinese: 芥子園畫傳, Jieziyuan Huazhuan), sometimes known as Jieziyuan Huapu (芥子園畫譜). You can see example pages of the copy in Princeton's Graphic Arts Collection, and Princeton also published a facsimile with translated text (Google books preview).
posted by filthy light thief (13 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is beautiful. It sure makes me wish that I knew how to make beautiful things that people will care about for centuries.

This page reminded me of a piece of a Prune game.
posted by OmieWise at 12:18 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


These are gorgeous. Is there any option to download it as a PDF/epub I'm not finding?
posted by lmfsilva at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2015


If you, like me, were wondering what a Scholar's Rock was.

This is really cool, thanks for posting!
posted by selfnoise at 12:25 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


These are gorgeous. Is there any option to download it as a PDF/epub I'm not finding?

Nope, but you can download individual images (click "View more options" and select "Download or Share," where you can then "Download this image").


If you, like me, were wondering what a Scholar's Rock was.

Some Scholar's Rocks are also lithophones, or chiming/ ringing rocks.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:28 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah, good enough. I'll guess there will be a lot of clicking tonight....
posted by lmfsilva at 12:35 PM on September 11, 2015


This is beautiful. It sure makes me wish that I knew how to make beautiful things that people will care about for centuries.
"All my life I have loved landscape painting, but it has been a pleasure of looking at other people's work, for I myself cannot paint."

Thus wrote Li Yu, the Qing dramatist and playwright, who composed the introduction to part I of the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, published in 1679.
(From The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting: A Reevaluation of the First Edition [PDF])
posted by filthy light thief at 12:35 PM on September 11, 2015


Now I want to go down the rabbit hole of the earliest colour prints extant.
posted by infini at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2015


Ah, good enough. I'll guess there will be a lot of clicking tonight....

If you want to download every image (a number of them are pages of text, which may be of less interest to you), the images are numbered sequentially, from ...00001.jpg to ...00388.jpg. There are ways to automate such sequential downloading, but the Cambridge University Library tech folks might prefer if you slowed down and clicked through all those intermediary pages.


Now I want to go down the rabbit hole of the earliest colour prints extant.

I was tempted, but I'll just point to A History of Chinese Science and Technology, Volume 2 (the Google books preview on older Chinese multi-color printing techniques) and The Ingenious Craft of Engraving (the link to the Douban block printing method) which references some such works.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:49 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel really irritated that I have to copypaste the pinyin, in order to google the Chinese characters so I can email this to my mom, so she isn't faced looking at weird non-descript, toneless pinyin. I also wish that Anglicized libraries could keep the original integrity of the Chinese characters, and not only focus it for an English-speaking audience. There are many bilingual viewers who would love to see this.
posted by yueliang at 1:00 PM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


十竹齋書畫譜 (this is the original Chinese characters by the way. Google auto-translated it for me when I typed into the search engine, and it's also sourced according to Hu Zhengyan's wiki page. )
posted by yueliang at 1:05 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


excellent post.
posted by theora55 at 2:11 PM on September 11, 2015


filthy light thief, thank you so much for the post. They are eye-poppingly beautiful!

The douban technique sounds painstaking in both Chinese and English:
During the printing process, the color settings of the draft illustration are separately imitated and carved into tens and even hundreds of small wood blocks. These wood blocks are then fixed into their positions with paste, and subsequently go through either filled-in or layer printing process from light to dark color with the use of ink, paint dye, and paste.

「餖版」技法印製的大型木板水印畫集。「餖版」技法始於明代末年,是在木刻畫彩色套印基礎上發展的技術。印製過程根據彩色畫稿的設色要求分別勾摹,並雕刻成幾十塊甚至上百塊的小木板,而後膠著於固定位置,再以墨、顏料與漿糊逐步由淺至深依次套印或疊印。
posted by of strange foe at 3:38 PM on September 12, 2015


IT ME! (Page 69 is Wintersweet.)
posted by wintersweet at 11:24 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older Giraffe Sounds:   |   Greek Like Me Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments