Culture Corner

木版 版画

Chinese Muban Woodblock Printing 

Muban woodblock printmaking is an analog water-based multicolor printmaking technique invented in China in the Tang dynasty and reaching its peak in popularity and technical development in the late Ming - early Qing dynasty. Using finely-carved blocks of pear tree wood and traditional Chinese color inks, this versatile medium can mimic the effects of traditional Chinese brush ink painting. Though used to create beautiful individual works of art and religious objects, the woodblock printing technique had its greatest impact as a medium for disseminating information, cultural values, and aesthetics throughout China and beyond. Though the late Ming – early Qing period is largely seen as woodblock printing's "golden age", this centuries-old art form continues to thrive in China's contemporary art scene as today's artists experiment with new subject matter, techniques, and applications.

If you are interested in seeing fine and rare examples of this art form in person, please be sure to visit the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens' exhibition "Gardens, Art, and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints", on display at the Huntington's Boone Gallery through January 9, 2016. This unprecedented collection of Chinese woodblock prints includes rare pieces from international museums and private collectors never before exhibited together. After viewing the exhibition, take some time to wander through the Suzhou-style Garden of Flowing Fragrance, designed using the same aesthetic and feng shui principals as the traditional scholars' gardens in Suzhou.

Pomegranate and Magnolia with Bird, Qing dynasty, ca. 1700–1750. Artist: Ding Liangxian. Publisher: Jinchang district, Suzhou, Jiangsu province. Woodblock print with embossing, ink and colors on paper (multi-block technique with hand-coloring), 11 7/8 × 14 3/4 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.