Printed Calligraphy or Hand-copied Print? The Interplay between Manuscripts and Woodblock Prints in Seventeenth-Century China (LIN Hang)
During the eighth century woodblock printing was invented in China. Text and illustrations were reproduced by carving characters and line-drawings onto woodblocks in relief; ink was then applied to the woodblocks and a mirror image of the woodblock impressed on paper. Despite the expansion in the quality and quantity of printing from the late-sixteenth century onwards much late-Ming printing did not observe the artistic standards established in the Song period (960-1276), in particular with regards to the nondescript and impersonal character of the script styles (e.g. mingti, jiangti etc.) used for woodblock prints. At the same time, literati publishers and artist printers tried in two major ways to counteract the increasing standardization and dullness of the mediocre script: by hand-copying facsimiles of Song dynasty block prints (yingsong chao) and by cutting printing blocks from pages written in distinctive calligraphy (xieke). Based on a group of manuscripts and block prints (and their hand-written copies) dating from the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1911), this talk aims to explore the active interplay between manuscript and print that was taking place in late-Imperial China, in which both block prints in imitation of handwritten calligraphy and hand-copied facsimiles of block prints were widely produced. The focus will be on an examination of the factors that impact the demarcation of and interaction between these two basic forms of knowledge transmission, taking into consideration factors that differentiate the history of printing in China from that in Europe.