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Plurality of Printing Techniques:::
A. Woodblock Printing

Inherited from centuries of experience in the tradition of woodblock printing, this technique refers to making a handwritten copy of calligraphy (imperial, in this case) or a transcription onto blocks of wood. After the background is carefully carved away to leave behind the characters and other features in relief, the blocks are then printed in ink on paper and then bound into books. Despite the division of labor throughout the process, the style of the main contents were all done in "Sung script characters", except for the imperial poetry or preface and inscriptions of the original book, which were in "soft script characters". Thus, despite the work of many hands, the strokes of the characters are consistent throughout, forming a unique style.

Imperially Approved K'ang-hsi Dictionary

Imperially Approved K'ang-hsi Dictionary
Written upon imperial order by Chang Yü-shu, et al., Ch'ing Dynasty
1716 Wu-ying Palace imprint, Ch'ing Dynasty
故殿031371-031410

What is "Sung script"? It refers to a rectangular character style based in imitation on Sung dynasty print. The carved characters have a strong vertical emphasis. Since this was specially developed for printing by print engravers, it was also known as "craftsman" and "hard" style.

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Imperially Approved Complete Poetry of the T'ang
Imperially Approved Complete Poetry of the T'ang
Edited on imperial order by Ts'ao Yin, et al., Ch'ing Dynasty
1707 Yangchow Poetry Bureau imprint, Ch'ing Dynasty
故殿035909-036028

What is "soft script"? As opposed to "hard style", it referred originally to the upright standard script of printing produced by the Yangchow Poetry Bureau. Standing out for its beauty and elegance, it was later called "Ou style" in imitation of the calligraphy of Ou-yang Hsün or "Chao style" in imitation of that of Chao Meng-fu, both generally known for their softer manner.

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B. Movable Bronze Typeset

Completed Collection of Graphs and Writings of Ancient and Modern Times is a major classified book project spanning antiquity up to its time. In the early stages of editing, the K'ang-hsi Emperor decided on using movable bronze print type, for which he had a set of bronze character types engraved and cast. The engraving of the type was very refined, so the resulting print was exceptionally precise, being the best among the movable metal type imprints over the years.

Completed Collection of Graphs and Writings of Ancient and Modern Times
Completed Collection of Graphs and Writings of Ancient and Modern Times
1726 Wu-ying Palace movable bronze type imprint, Ch'ing Dynasty
故殿043165-048184

 

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C. Movable Wood Type

In 1773, the Ch'ien-lung Emperor ordered the Wu-ying Palace to produce some of the books compiled in the Vast Documents of the Yung-lo Era, and, taking the advice of the official Chin Chien, had them printed using movable wood type. Since the Ch'ien-lung Emperor did not consider the term "movable characters" very refined, he chose to use the two characters for "assembled treasures" instead, which is the origin behind the term "Gem Print Editions of the Wu-ying Palace". At the time, 250,000 character blocks were carved from jujube wood, and it took about 21 years altogether to print the 134 books, which became known as "Gem Print Edition of the Collectanea".

The Book of Agriculture

The Book of Agriculture
Written by Wang Chen, Ch'ing Dynasty
Ch'ien-lung era (1736-1795) Wu-ying Palace Gem (movable wood type) imprint, Ch'ing Dynasty
故殿037534-037549

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D. Polychrome Set Imprints

Set imprints of the Wu-ying Palace used the finest paper and ink with pure colors famous for their lack of overlapping and defects. Among these works, those in black and red are the most common, while three or more colors are fewer. Relatively rare is the combination of movable and set print techniques. Owing to the complex processes involved, such examples are rare and therefore particularly treasured.

Imperially Selected Distillation of T'ang and Sung Poetry

Imperially Selected Distillation of T'ang and Sung Poetry
Edited on imperial order by the Ch'ien-lung Emperor and reviewed by Liang Shih-cheng, et al., Ch'ing Dynasty
1751 Wu-ying Palace four-color set imprint, Ch'ing Dynasty
故殿003696-003715

This book is a selection of some poems by Li Po, Tu Fu, Po Chü-i, and Han Yü of the T'ang dynasty as well as Su Shih and Lu Yu of the Sung, for a total of six poets. There are an overall and individual commentaries as well as textual research from official histories and miscellaneous records, making this of considerable reference value.

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E.Block Engraved Illustrations

One of the features of Palace Imprints is their greater proportion of illustrations. Since court painters mostly did the compositions, scenes are often well developed and the style quite opulent, clearly exhibiting the unique tastes of the imperial clan. The production of engraved copperplate illustrations represents a result of cultural exchange between China and the West. Such Ch'ing court printings were very limited, so they rarely found their way into private hands. The earliest one was Imperially Produced Poems and Illustrations of the Thirty-six Views at the Summer Mountain Palace Retreat, a project headed by the Italian missionary Matteo Ripa in which engraved copperplate illustrations were done in imitation of woodblock carving techniques. The most famous Ch'ing court copperplate prints belong to the series known as Victory in the Pacification of Muslim Dzungars. This set was originally done as drawings by Western missionaries serving the Ch'ing court and then sent to France, where they were engraved on copper plates and illustrated prints made.

   
Imperially Produced Poems on Agriculture and Sericulture with Illustrations

Imperially Produced Poems on Agriculture and Sericulture with Illustrations
Written by the K'ang-hsi Emperor and paintings by Chiao Ping-chen, Ch'ing Dynasty
1696 Wu-ying Palace imprint, Ch'ing Dynasty
故殿029532

Once, on a southern inspection tour, the K'ang-hsi Emperor acquired a copy of Illustrations on Agriculture and Sericulture, of which he ordered painters to make a copy. For each illustration, the K'ang-hsi Emperor added a seven-character truncated verse in semi-cursive script in his own calligraphy. These were then engraved by the masters Chu Kuei and Mei Yü-feng. The poetry, painting, and calligraphy combined together make this a masterpiece of book printing of the early Ch'ing court.

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First Anthology on the Grand Occasion of the Imperial Birthday

First Anthology on the Grand Occasion of the Imperial Birthday
Written on imperial order by Wang Yüan-ch'i, et al., Ch'ing Dynasty
1717 Wu-ying Palace imprint, Ch'ing Dynasty
故殿004573-004612

This book with text and illustration together is of a documentary nature with exquisitely engraved images. In celebration of the K'ang-hsi Emperor's sixtieth birthday, people both in and outside of the court joined in the festivities. To record this grand occasion, court officials ordered Wang Yüan-ch'i to lead the painting production of a long silk handscroll painting on the imperial birthday entitled "Ten-thousand Longevities". Based on this, the book was also produced. The entire book is composed of 120 chapters, of which chapters 41 and 42 are illustrations consisting of 148 pages. If lined up in succession, they would form the equivalent of a handscroll painting twenty Chinese feet in length. The illustration records the festivities from the Ch'ang-ch'un Garden to the Shen-wu Gate, presenting a world full of great peace and prosperity in the early Ch'ing.

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Victory in the Pacification of Muslim Dzungars

Victory in the Pacification of Muslim Dzungars
Fourth illustration: "The Battle of Hoskuluk"
平圖021224-021257 

This is a copperplate engraving produced in France based on designs made at the Ch'ing court. The expansive scenes and complex compositions also include fine descriptions of the figures and landscape done in the techniques of chiaroscuro and one-point perspective, both of which reflect the high level of copperplate printing in Europe at the time.

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