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Explores the artistic and aesthetic bases of popular Chinese woodblock prints


Traditional woodblock printing is a Chinese folk art that has now nearly vanished. The London-based Muban Educational Trust holds a rich collection of popular prints from this tradition. Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Popular Prints reproduces eighty-four of these prints from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with analytical commentary.Woodblock printing was the principal method of producing inexpensive and colorful single-sheet images for mass consumption in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century China. Prints of this type are known today as “New Year pictures” because the demand for them peaked around New Year. However, the term “popular print” more accurately describes these works whose subjects include deities and tutelary spirits, illustrations to stories and operas, and even contemporary political or revolutionary messages.Art and Aesthetics emphasizes the artistic aspects of these prints, appealing to Chinese art historians but also to those interested in Chinese anthropology, popular religion, Chinese and other folk art, and traditional crafts.

Ellen J. Laing received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She was Maude I. Kerns Distinguished Professor of Oriental Art, University of Oregon and is currently Research Associate at the Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan. She h