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Paper Horses: Traditional Woodblock Prints of Gods from Northern China

$36.95

By David Leffman

In 2020 a large album of “paper horses” – prayer prints of Chinese gods – appeared for sale. How had these fragile things, cheaply printed in the 1940s and meant to be ritually burned soon after purchase, survived intact for so long? And how come there were at least three other identical sets in collections around the world?

In answering this mystery, author David Leffman explores the history and techniques behind traditional Chinese woodblock printing, which dates back to at least the Tang dynasty (618-907). All 93 “paper horses” in the original album are reproduced alongside biographies of the gods, spirits and demons depicted, providing an illustrated introduction to the complex and fascinating world of Chinese folk religion.

LOOK INSIDE THIS BOOK
Click the following links to read excerpts from the book.

Introduction   Stove God   Qilin Bringing Children

ISBN: 9789887554790 ISBN: 978-988-75547-9-0 Categories: , , , Tags: , ,

Description

In 2020 a large album of “paper horses” – prayer prints of Chinese gods – appeared for sale. How had these fragile things, cheaply printed in the 1940s and meant to be ritually burned soon after purchase, survived intact for so long? And how come there were at least three other identical sets in collections around the world? In answering this mystery, author David Leffman explores the history and techniques behind traditional Chinese woodblock printing, which dates back to at least the Tang dynasty (618-907). All 93 “paper horses” in the original album are reproduced alongside biographies of the gods, spirits and demons depicted, providing an illustrated introduction to the complex and fascinating world of Chinese folk religion.

REVIEWS

“As a lover of Chinese legends I was always puzzled by the Goodrich collection displayed at the University of Columbia’s C.V. Starr Library – so many similar-looking portrait squares with esoteric titles attached, entirely lacking any explanation. This has been remedied by David Leffman’s Paper Horses. The text is short and concise, providing the important details of each deity and his or her story, in a layout that is easy on the eye. The book is a delight to flick through. Leffman appears to be the first to provide context to the meaning and art of the ‘Paper Horse’.” – Ronni Pinsler, Founder, www.bookofxianshen.com

“David Leffman has put in so much hard work and made so many excellent insights. His book is really valuable for the study of Beijing zhima and of Chinese popular prints.” – Dr Yanwen Jiang, Director, Wang Shucun Chinese Folk Art Research Centre, Tianjin

“Leffman has done a lot of digging into the story of each god. His book is well written for the general public.” – Dr Wen-chien Cheng, Senior Curator, Louise Hawley Stone Chair of Chinese Arts, Royal Ontario Museum

Additional information

Weight900 g
Dimensions216 × 216 mm
Pages

192

Binding

Hardback

Illustrations

96 colour illustrations

About the author

David Leffman first visited China in 1985, and he has spent over five years in the country as a travel writer and photographer. He authored regional guidebooks for Rough Guides and Dorling Kindersley, and his articles on Chinese history and culture have appeared in the South China Morning Post and The Diplomat. His biography of Qing-dynasty adventurer William Mesny, The Mercenary Mandarin, was published in 2016.

Leffman taught himself to cut, ink, and print woodblocks in his teens, and has visited printing studios across China, interviewing artists and carvers and building up a collection of traditional prints.

He was introduced to the world of Chinese folk belief by the late Keith Stevens, author of Chinese Mythological Gods and Chinese Gods; and Ronni Pinsler, the man behind www.bookofxianshen.com. Their works inspired him to explore the legends and iconography of “paper horses” – woodblock prints of Chinese gods.