Lifiting of the Siege from Chang Shen-chih's Revised Edition of the Romance of the Western Chamber, with Northern Melodies
Written by Wang Shih-fu, Yuan Dynasty Illustrated by Chen Hung-shou Imprint by Hsiang Nan-chou
Ming Dynasty (1639)
|National Palace Museum
Subtle Portraiture and Exquisite
The art of woodblock printing has a long history in China. The earliest images were illustrated Buddhist scriptures, which appeared during the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties (6th to 10th centuries). With the progressive advancement of engraved woodblock printing, the production of illustrated books gradually became commonplace. The great economic growth that began in the reign of the Ming emperor Wan-li (r. 1573-1620) sparked a period of intense literary creativity. Responding to the popularity of novels, plays and other such vernacular compositions, private printers invested huge sums of money to enlist literati artists and craftsmen to produce pictorial editions of the most successful works. Their efforts mark the late Ming as a golden age in the history of Chinese book illustration.
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