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2. Agricultural illustrations: Blueprint or icon?

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Chapter Summary

The unique characteristics and possibilities of woodblock printing played a key role in the development and dissemination of agricultural knowledge in China, and woodblock illustration was among the pedagogical tools developed in these early centuries of print culture. The ruling classes of late imperial China never abandoned their efforts to "promote agriculture". Yet one of their favourite vehicles for such campaigns, right into the nineteenth century, was Lou Chou's Gengzhi tu, with a new set of poems added by the reigning emperor, and perhaps a dash of Western perspective or a couple of new scenes. Wang Zhen's Register offered much more innovative visual possibilities. When it came to practical, technical matters like farming, it seems that those educated Chinese who recorded changes or improvements were satisfied with the power of words to convey material processes, and felt no need or desire to resort to graphics.

Keywords: Lou Chou's Gengzhi tu; Wang Zhen's Register; woodblock printing



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