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Yan Han (1916-2011)
Deputy-Commander of the Eighth Route Army, Peng Dehuai, Directing from the Front Line
Woodblock print
22 x 16 cm

Originally a painter, Yan Han studied woodblock printmaking at the Lu Xun Academy at Yan’an.  He also spent time in the Taihang Mountain Anti-Japanese Base Area, and his inscription notes that this print was cut there, behind enemy lines.  Such portrait prints were rare in wartime--highly detailed, expertly shaded and very expressive of individual character. Peng Dehuai (1898-1974) was one of China’s most powerful generals until he was purged by Chairman Mao in 1959 and only rehabilitated posthumously. 


Muban Educational Trust registration number yanhv059


Yan Han (1916-2011)
Develop the Militia’s Activities with Explosives
Woodblock print
22 x 17 cm

This print was made during the Civil War, inspired by Yan Han’s time in the Taihang Anti-Japanese Base Area (no. 61).  Its theme is the mobilization of the rural peasant population, and this support led to greatly expanded ‘liberated’ areas under communist control.  The print is in the manner of the nianhua (literally ‘New Year print’), a traditional folk-art form that was highly effective for propaganda among the masses in the 1940s.  The nianhua style was flat, colourful and optimistic.

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanhv069



Yan Han (1916-2011)
Support the Front Line
Woodblock print
29 x 38 cm

Black and white prints were less common than coloured ones in the 1950s and 60s, and prints were altogether less common than posters after the Great Leap Forward (1958-62).  Yan Han, however, continued to make prints inspired by his time in the Taihang Mountain Base Area during the Second Sino-Japanese War.  Here he celebrates the extraordinary exertions of communist partisans, bringing equipment and supplies to the battle front. They move confidently on the narrow, dangerous walkways of Taihang’s spectacular cliffs.


Muban Educational Trust registration number yanhv030


Yan Han (1916-2011)
Great Wall—A Link of Peace and Friendship
Woodblock print
47 x 55 cm

Yan Han was an important educator, as well as artist in the new PRC, but was condemned during the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957-58.   He was politically attacked again during the Cultural Revolution. Yan re-emerged in the 1980s with works in a new, apolitical style—geometric and often abstract.  Here he notes the symbolic importance of China’s Great Wall, but presents it playfully, like a folded strip of coloured paper. He was thoroughly re-habilitated and much honoured in his final years. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanhv046



Zhao Zongzao (b. 1931)
Xiling Bridge After the Rain
Woodblock print
21 x 39 cm

Zhao Zongzao started printmaking in 1950 and is one of China’s most versatile graphic artists.  After 1949, nearly all art promoted revolutionary goals, but a policy change in 1959 allowed for some works without overtly political content.  This lovely scene shows the Xiling Bridge on the West Lake in Hangzhou. The West Lake is a classical subject in Chinese art and literature. The viewer has the feeling of looking through a window after rain.

Muban Educational Trust registration number zhazz015


Zhao Zongzao (b. 1931)
All Four Seasons are Spring
Woodblock print
42 x 40 cm

Sericulture has been practiced in China for thousands of years. This colourful print shows the steps in making silk, from cultivating mulberry leaves for silkworms to eat, to sorting the best worms and caring for them as they spin their cocoons.  These processes take place over several months, in different seasons.  Spring is the season of rebirth and new beginnings, so “All Four Seasons are Spring” is a political message of optimism. Zhao Zongzao was expert at designing soft propaganda. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number zhazz024



Zhao Zongzao (b. 1931)
Dance—Highland Barley, No.2, in a series of three prints
Woodblock print
35 x 42 cm

Zhao Zongzao was known for his scenes of rural utopia.  This lively, colourful print is from a series showing Tibetan village life and was inspired by his experiences there in the 1950s and 60s.  Tibetan cultural traditions are reflected in the peasants’ costumes and background buildings, but this work also carries political significance: it shows agricultural abundance, which was an important propaganda theme during the disastrous Great Leap Forward (1958-62).  Technically, the print is of exceptionally high quality.

Muban Educational Trust registration number zhazz019


Zhao Zongzao (b. 1931)
Competing with Dawn and Dusk
Woodblock print
48 x 68 cm

Posters are the most familiar art of the Cultural Revolution: bold, forceful and ephemeral, often with the image determined by the political slogan.  By the early 1970s, more traditional art forms were revived, as with this print, and even Chinese brush and ink paintings—provided they carried messages of collective efforts towards economic productivity and national construction.  This exquisitely shaded and detailed image, with its attention-grabbing, varied narrative, is pure propaganda at its finest.

Muban Educational Trust registration number zhazz034



Zhao Zongzao (b. 1931)
Celestial Penglai — Huangshan
Woodblock print
48 x 40 cm

This print shows the influence of Zhao’s Zongzao’s 1982 visit to Japan. The composition depicts, abstractly, silhouetted pine trees growing out of “boneless” mountain peaks (without outlines). Zhao used traditional water-soluble colours on damp paper, achieving a misty, painterly effect, and incorporated the woodblock’s grain to suggest the rocks’ textures. Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) is a range of peaks in southeast China’s Anhui province. Celestial Capital Peak and Three Island Penglai are two features of the scenic range.
Muban Educational Trust registration number zhazz040


Xu Bing (b. 1955)
Bustling Little Town
Woodblock print
52 x 55 cm

Xu Bing entered the Printmaking Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1977. This is an early work from his student years, one of several illustrating ‘bustling’ towns and villages.  The black and white sections skilfully contrast with each other within the design structure. The overall image is arresting, but each area of the print is appealing in itself, filled with individual characters and details of everyday life on the water.

Muban Educational Trust registration number xuvbv013



Xu Bing (b. 1955)
Beijing Countryside, no 5
1982, a/p
Woodblock print
15 x 15 cm

Xu Bing is best known for his prints and installations engaging with language as a means of cultural expression or subversion. His earlier works were representational, rather than conceptual, and many show genre scenes in towns and villages.  The Beijing Countryside series was completed while he was working for his MA award at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.  It feels intimate and accessible, with elements of Chinese folk art: thick, dark lines, flat composition and unrealistic perspective. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number xuvbv003


Xu Bing (b. 1955)
Drawing of the Longyang Gorge No. 1
1986, a/p
50 x 51 cm

Xu visited the Longyang Gorge several times.  Located in Qinghai Province, northwest China, the gorge is a scenic tourist spot, but just as importantly, the location of a huge dam and hydroelectric power station. Xu made drawings of the cliffs, and etchings of the construction sites. The print’s shading and cross-hatching are extremely complex.  The tiny people visible in various spots are like the tiny figures in classical Chinese landscape paintings—perhaps a statement about the industrialization of China’s landscape.

Muban Educational Trust registration number xuvbv014



Xu Bing (b. 1955)
Egg-like Stone no. 2
49 x 52 cm

Xu Bing’s technical virtuosity always surprises. This etching, made around the same time as Longyang Gorge No. 1 (no. 72), could not be more different in style and feeling.  The beautiful stone sits alone against a dark background; not a solid black, as it first appears. The background is carefully shaded and lined, the distance between lines narrowing from the top down until they disappear.  The significance of the stone being tied with rope is unclear.  

Muban Educational Trust registration number xuvbv016


Xu Bing (b. 1955)
My New Book 
Woodblock print
35 x 50 cm

Xu Bing gained international recognition in the late 1980s with his conceptual installation, Book from the Sky, composed of books and banners printed with 4000 invented, unreadable characters. His point is the unreliability of written language. In this print, the left-hand page is incomprehensible, with many words invented.  Some of the alphabet letters on the right are paired with same-sounding characters (‘D’ for example, is next to a character pronounced ‘di’), but other pairs are not so clearly related.  

Muban Educational Trust registration number xuvbv001

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