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Introduction

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Chapter Summary

This is the introductory chapter of this book, which addresses the impact of woodblock printing (xylography) on Chinese recorded culture from the tenth through the fourteenth centuries. In the first part of this introduction, the author reflects on the earliest part of the story of Chinese printing, not to repeat what has been written on the subject, but to help us better understand the dramatic quantitative and qualitative changes in the history of books that occurred from the Song onward. Printing was not merely added to the available media - manuscript on paper, inscriptions on stone, paintings, among others - but also changed the relationships among these media. The difficulties in studying printing in pre-Song China lie not just in the relative scarcity of extant sources but also in the limited range of these materials, whether religious or secular.

Keywords: China; fourteenth century; Song; woodblock printing

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