Art of War: Chinese woodcuts from Yan’an ca. 1944

10:15 am–1:00 pm
The Hong Kong Jockey Club University of Chicago Academic Complex | The University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus in Hong Kong
The Merlin Lu Reading Room, LG, 168 Victoria Road, Mount Davis, Hong Kong


Woodblock printing dated back to the eighth century and thrived during the Ming and Qing periods as illustrations in novels and new year prints. The popular origin of this medium prompted intellectuals such as Lu Xun (1881-1936) to use it as a means to educate the public and raise awareness of contemporary plight, and he introduced modern works by Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945) and others to Chinese artists. Woodcuts proved to be an effective and affective medium, as sharp incisions in black and white colors are conducive to rendering visual drama that expressed suffering and social ills.  

Join us to learn from Professors Thomas Ebrey and Josh Yiu about the connections and influences between Lu Xun and Chinese Woodcut during the WWII.

Program Rundown:

10:15    Registration
10:30 Talk by Prof Thomas Ebrey (SM’65, PhD’68) [BIO]
"Lu Xun and Me: Our Paths to Chinese Woodblock Prints of His Day"
Lu Xun was at the heart of two developments in the art of pictorial woodblock printing. First, he introduced the political woodblock print, where the print was conceived and engraved by the artist himself. In the 1930s Lu Xun encouraged artists to make these mostly black and white prints dealing with social issues. With the start of the Sino-Japanese War, these artists devoted themselves to prints supporting China. These led to the Yan'an prints of 1944-45 shown in this exhibition. Secondly, together with Zheng Zhenduo, Lu Xun realized that letter-paper was an underappreciated art form. In 1934 Lu Xun and Zheng Zhenduo published Peiping Jianpu (Collection of Peking Letter-paper) featuring 300 woodblock printed letterpapers, bound into 6 volumes. Printed in a small edition of 200 copies, the beauty of these prints caused a sensation, leading to the publishing of several collections of letter-paper in much larger print runs. Zheng Zhenduo went on to re-invigorate interest in late Ming and early Qing color woodblock prints.
11:10 Talk by Prof Josh Yiu (AB’00) [BIO]
“Art and War: A New and Real Front for Chinese Artists”
The Chinese Woodcut Movement is a story about the triumph of knives over guns. This talk will focus on the historical circumstances that gave rise to this new artistic medium, which proved to be an effective tool during the ‘War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression’.
11:50 Q&A
12:00 Light Reception

To register, please click here

Inaugural Art Exhibition (Nov 30, 2018 – Mar 31, 2019)

A set of eighteen woodcut prints will also be exhibited, which is the first time that they are shown publicly since 1944. These woodcut prints created during WWII by a group of fervent artists who fought for China’s survival with wood-carving knives, ink and paper.  Inspired by the teachings of the revolutionary thinker Lu Xun (1881-1936) and sustained by a shared conviction to prevail, young artists such as Yan Han (1916-2011), Gu Yuan (1919-96) and Li Qun (1921-2012) created some of the most defining images of the period without resorting to gruesome imagery that often characterized wartime China. Printed on coarse paper and shown unceremoniously for public consumption in resource-stricken Yan’an, these compelling images celebrate patriotism, comradery, and above all, the determination to overcome obstacles and create order during the moment of national crisis. For details, please click here.