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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Faulconer feeds its forest

Thanks to the long relationship between Grinnell College and several Chinese institutions, the Grinnell community now has the rare opportunity to look at some of the most valuable books in China from the 14th-17th centuries. On Friday, Sept. 23, the Faulconer Gallery opened its new exhibition “From the Book Forest” on commercial publishing in late imperial China.

In partnership with Center for International Studies and Professor Andrew Hsieh, History, the Faulconer Gallery collaborated with Nanjing University, Yangzhou Block Printing Museum and the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at the University of California, Berkeley to produce the show.

Hsieh has been developing the show since 2007.

“I love books,” Hsieh said. “We have discussed what China has contributed to the world. Wood block carving plays an important role in world civilization.”

In its Chinese original, “book forest” referred to a gathering of scholars or scholarly writings and “book quarters,” or libraries. The collection ranges from the early handwritten manuscript to various styles of woodblock printed books. Bringing the audience back to the prosperous Ming era (1358-1644), the exhibition explores the rise of commercial printing and its effects on learning, publishing and entertainment.

“It’s been wonderful to work with the people from the Faulconer Gallery,” said Dr. Deborah Rudolph, guest curator from the University of California, Berkeley. “They are familiar with the audience here. … It’s a very fruitful collaboration.”

Dr. Rudolph wrote the catalog and is now teaching a short course for Grinnell students that will make daily use of the exhibition. Dr. Rudolph will speak about her exhibition in a gallery talk at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 4.

The exhibition also features visiting artists from China. In the past week, three master craftsmen from China Block Printing Museum in Yangzhou demonstrated the key techniques of creating these books and shared their expertise in calligraphy, woodblock carving and printing with the Grinnell community.

As a highlight of the program, Professor Xia Weizhong, a distinguished Professor of History from Nanjing University and a longtime friend of Grinnell, gave a talk on the shift to private enterprise in printing during the Ming Dynasty on Monday, Sept. 26.

According to Professor Xia, this was the first time that these techniques were demonstrated in North America.

Sophie Haas ’12, a Chinese and English major, found the talk and the exhibition extremely interesting.

“It is very neat that they bring in two kinds of arts related to each other at the same time,” said Haas, who curated the exhibition “China in Grinnell” in Drake Library, and was fascinated by both exhibitions of the woodblock printing and the Chinese propaganda posters.

The exhibition is one of the many recent events that celebrates the strong tie between Grinnell and East Asia. Professor David Harrison, Director of Center of International Studies, stressed Grinnell College’s deep appreciation for East Asia and for China.

“I want this to serve as a gateway for the Grinnell community to understand the way that Grinnell is connected to East Asia,” Harrison said.

The exhibition runs through Dec.11.

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