2011 CALA-NCA Traditional Chinese Book Printing

Talk and Demo by Woodblock Printing Masters from China’s Yangzhou Woodblock Printing Museum and Nanjing University, September 20, 2011 at San Francisco Public Library


You call them big masters at least. You think of them as dinosaurs in this highly advanced printing age, let alone the digital world.  That is why what they preserve—the Chinese art of woodblock printing– was inscribed on the 2009 UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
These masters, three experts from Yangzhou Woodblock Printing Museum, China, recently showed their work for the first time in the United States.  Sponsored by Chinese American Librarians Association/Northern California Chapter, the East Asian Library of UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Public Library, they presented a 2-hour demonstration open to the public in San Francisco Public Library on September 20, 2011.
Prior to the demo, Professor Weizhong Xia from Nanjing University gave a historical overview of traditional Chinese book printing, which raised the audience’s interest right away. Then the three masters, Mr. Rui Mingyang, Mr. Shen Shuhua and Mr. Hou Guilin, performed, one by one and step by step, the various woodblock printing techniques, such as wood-carving, book printing, and book binding. From choosing paper to processing woodblock, from making colors right to printing each page properly, they brought to life what exactly happened in the printing house in China more than 1000 years ago.  During the demo, they produced dozens of copies of a sample page from an old version of Confucius the Analects and gave them as gift to the audience. At the end, the audience asked many questions and lined up for their autographs. The interpreter Yi-yun Zhang   did a wonderful job with both her language skills and intelligent humor.

The program was a great success, well attended by community members and some CALA Northern California Chapter (CALA-NCA) members. Doris Tseng, reference librarian of San Francisco Public Library, Jianye He, the librarian for Chinese collections at UC Berkeley East Asian, and Xiaoli Li, president of CALA Northern California Chapter, had worked together on behalf of the sponsors to organize the event. They and the previous CALA-NCA board members started planning early this year. Jianye He communicated with the visitors and the NCA officers, and made sure a time schedule work for both sides. Doris Tseng volunteered to host the program in her library. She designed the bilingual flyer to promote the program in Chinese and English, scheduled the event, and tested facilities including the video player of the program. Because of her efforts, two major local Chinese newspapers reported the event. Xiaoli Li made warm welcome remarks to the guest speakers on behalf of the CALA-NCA chapter, emphasizing the significance of this cultural exchange program.
More than 6 months’ hard work of our chapter officers was rewarding, receiving grateful comments from the Chinese masters, who were very much impressed with the warmth and strong interest of the audience and expressed their desire to find more opportunities to perform for overseas friends. They gave a very precious gift to the San Francisco Public Library, a long handwritten scroll of a Tang poem “Chun jiang hua yue ye” (A Moonlit Night on the Spring River).

Some other CALA-NCA members who attended the events were current chapter officers Yiping Wang, Jessica Lu,  Hong Wang, and former officers  Liang Yi, Carl C. Chan, Bin Zhang and Amy Kuo.   In coordination with CALA to enhance communications with other organizations at home and abroad, Northern California Chapter has been involved in sponsoring exchange programs with California libraries and Chinese institutions ever since its foundation. The officers held a meeting after this event, discussing about new opportunities of programs and workshops for 2011 and 2012.

Hong Wang
Program Coordinator, CALA-NCA 2011-2012