Chinese Woodblock

Dear Jack,

This 18th century Chinese woodblock was scanned in 2 sections, each was individually adjusted for best image and then the tonal values were tweaked to make the 2 halves identical - and then they were "glued" together to form a single image. It was then 'flipped' to make a mirror image so that the characters could be read.

The wood carver who did the job had terrific talent because the characters look precisely as if they had been written by a brush and, of course, they were carved as mirror images. My best guess as to how this was done: the original manuscript was done by a good calligrapher by brush onto paper, using some sort of transferable pigment. The wood block surface was made absolutely flat and smooth and the pigment script transfered to the wood. The carver then finished the job. This block had the top surface of the characters covered with gold leaf, presumably because it had been retired from printing and was now to be a collectable art work. This made the characters very legible against the dark background. The darkness of the background was undoubtedly due to the many impressions of black ink that it had pulled.

I was able to translate a sufficient number of characters to know that the text dealt with Mencius, a renowned Chinese philosopher, and that this was part of a multi page document. It would be most interesting to have the text translated and, to this end, I give this challenge to any scholars in the Chinese (or Japanese) Kanji.

A good friend of mine obtained this piece, beautifully framed (unglazed), in Korea in the 1950s.


PS:   I found a site with the works of Mencius. Much of what he had to say is directly applicable to our current social and political dilemma.   George


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