In Lu Xun’s time, creative woodcuts were black and white, printed with oil-bound colour. Lu Xun also encouraged the revival of late-Ming multi-block techniques using water-soluble colours (shuiyin), but not for social and political reform. For his purposes—arousing and modernising China—black and white prints were the right approach. They could be produced quickly and cheaply in large quantities, without any special equipment: just a piece of wood, a knife, ink and paper. The resulting contrast of black and white was dramatic and immediate.
Black and white prints comprised a much smaller proportion of propaganda print production in post-1949 China. Prints with agricultural and industrial scenes in the 1950s were generally designed with only one or two colours, mostly oil-bound. In the late 1950s-early 60s, shuiyin techniques were revived, to promote ‘national’ forms. Following the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), many artists practiced these techniques for aesthetic reasons.
Woodblock printmakers use various cutting methods to produce their images. The most common method is to cut the prints in reverse, or mirror image, but several other methods are displayed here.