Chinese-Woodblock

Teacup Fairies

The Jones family liked to have tea on Sunday afternoons, and on this particular Sunday it happened that one of them dropped a teacup, and as the teacup hit the floor and shattered, all the fairies who lived inside the other teacups came swarming out of the cupboard waving their arms and shouting “STOP FUCKING DOING THAT!” at the top of their tiny voices. “Aw,” said the Joneses, “How cute!” They clustered around the fairies and began taking pictures with their cellphones. The fairies ran around in circles, chittering profanities too high pitched for human hearing. “Look!” enthused the eldest Jones sister. “Look, everybody! They’re dancing!”

The Joneses were in more danger than they ever could have imagined, because it is possible for fairies to get so angry that they spontaneously combust, and the resulting fires do not go out until the original wrong has been addressed to their satisfaction. Perhaps the Joneses were simply unfamiliar with the many examples of fourteenth century Chinese woodblock prints depicting contrite monarchs casting entire sets of gaiwans into angry emerald flames. In any case, had they known better, they might have gone out of their way to calm the fairies down, perhaps by leaving some scones or lemon bars out near the cupboard with a few flowers garnishing the edges of the plate. Fairies are worth having on your side, after all. They will keep all your fine china dusted with their delicate wings, and if you can persuade them that drinking tea out of their houses is in fact a perfectly normal thing to do, they will sometimes rearrange the tea leaves in the bottom after you are finished, rewriting your fortune into something kinder and gentler. It’s worth learning how to make really good lemon bars just for that. 

Major international loan exhibition “Gardens, Art, and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints” opens in the Boone Gallery this Saturday! Among the nearly 50 objects in the show is The Huntington’s own Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy and Painting (ca. 1633–1703), on public view for the first time.

Head to VERSO to read about Ten Bamboo.

image: Detail of bird eating fruit, Painting 2, Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy and Painting, ca. 1633–1703, compiled and edited by Hu Zhengyan (1584/5–1673/4), woodblock-printed book mounted as album leaves, ink and colors on paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. “Gardens, Art, and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints” is on view Sept. 17, 2016, through Jan. 9, 2017.