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Journeys in time 2010-06-18 China's intangible cultural heritage (2)- Engraved block painting 2

06-18-2010 17:02 BJT


In October 2009, UNESCO announced the inclusion of the traditional Chinese technique of engraved block printing on its world intangible heritage list. In China, the home of engraved block printing is the eastern city of Yangzhou. There, the history of block printing goes back some 13 centuries, to the mid-Tang Dynasty. Several hundred years spent innovating and refining this printing technique saw the city become, by the early Qing Dynasty, a centre of publishing in China. Then, a century ago, engraved block printing faced its greatest challenge, in the form of modern, mechanized printing presses. That engraved block printing has survived is thanks to a bookshop owner named Chen Henghe. He devoted his entire life to printing the 24-volume Yangzhou encyclopedia, using the traditional technique.

The three essential elements in engraved block printing are the wooden block, the dye or ink, and the paper. Making each of the parts involves exquisite traditional skills. Bringing them together successfully requires a high level of collaboration among the various craftsmen.

Engraved block printing originated in Chinese antiquity as a means of printing on textiles, before the technique was used on paper. The famous Han Dynasty tombs at Mawangdui yielded pieces of gauze, which are the earliest known examples of silk fabric printed using colour block printing.
Engraved block printing can be used to print various types of books, ranging from reproductions of ancient texts to modern books with conventional bindings. The Guangling Historical Printing House, founded in 1960, is home to some of China’s most accomplished block printing craftsmen. Through decades of devoted effort, they have helped the printing house build up a vast collection of ancient engraved printing blocks, including nearly 300 thousand blocks used in producing ancient texts. In 2009,UNESCO announced several additions to its world intangible cultural heritage list. They included China’s engraved block printing technique, along with the craftsmanship of weaving Nanjing Cloud-pattern brocade. In the next edition of our programme, we’ll hear how the exquisite Nanjing cloud-brocade is made. Please tune in again then.

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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