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Woodblock printing writes a new chapter

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-24 07:05
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A stitched bookbinding craftsman guides a learner to cut the sheets to make a threadbound book. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Woodblock treasure trove

Book designer and entrepreneur Jiang Xun, together with his wife Xing Na, co-founded the Mofan Bookstore in 2014. It specializes in books on literature, history and art, and also publishes thread-bound books made using woodblock printing methods.

Engraved woodblock printing is a technique perfected in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). At its core, it involves engraving characters on a piece of wood, and then inking the woodblock before placing paper on it. The technique was listed as a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009.

The process of woodblock printing can be divided into several key steps - material preparation, the actual carving, inking, printing, binding and layout. The final products, the thread-bound books printed on rice paper, exude elegance, and are scented with the fragrance of ink.

Jiang, 49, used to design book covers for publishing houses full time before opening his bookstore. He is also a woodblock collector, so he decided to publish woodblock-printed books after opening the bookstore.

"He is a bibliophile and simply adores books, and cherishes the woodblocks especially," says Xing, 37.

Jiang now has a collection of more than 30,000 woodblocks, some originating from the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

In 2009, Jiang cooperated with the National Library of China to open a woodblock museum located in a former canteen of the library's branch near Beihai Park.

Jiang exhibited more than 10,000 pieces from his woodblock collection for the public to see for free.

The woodblocks were traditionally abandoned once printing finished. They ended up as chopping boards or window frames, and Jiang hired a group of craftsmen to repair them.

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