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Ten Bamboo Studio albums

The Ten Bamboo Studio was the name of a house in Nanjing where the scholar-painter friends of Hu Zhengyan gathered. Hu Zhengyan was a fine amateur calligrapher, painter and carver of seals. In the early 17th century he printed the collection of color prints from the Ten Bamboo Studio, which came to be the best known of the early color printed woodblock books as well as the first painting manual to be printed in color.

The album contains color prints classified by subject: bird, fruit, prunus, orchids, bamboos and stone. Each subject is treated in a variety of painterly styles, some with hard outline and detail and other treated in a lighter manner as if painted with a softer wetter brush.

The albums of the Ten Bamboo Studio were so popular that they were reprinted many times, often from newly cut blocks and not always with the same attention to color gradation and perfect matching of blocks.

Sources: Chinese Illustration (in the collection of the British Museum) by Dr. Francis Wood

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