Chinese paper rubbings

The first form of printing consisted of rubbings from Chinese tombs shortly after the invention of paper at least 1,500 years ago. Numbers of copies could be made from the carved stones to propagate cultural myths, but Imperial fiats and regulations were also carved in stone, with copies of the rubbings disseminated. That sounds like printing to me.

These rubbings were obtained by me in Kowloon in 1963, when I was sailing around the world with my family on a Canada Council Travelling Fellowship. Of all the rubbings I’ve seen, these are the most exquisite and are raised to the level of “works of art.” They are taken from tombs of the Haan Dynasty from around 1,005 A.D. and preserve myths of that time. The use of colour must be common, because I bought a set of coloured chalks made for use in rubbings in Hong Kong, the island across the bay from Kowloon. These rubbings are the only ones I’ve seen in colour however, from among the many advertised on the net.

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