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Visit Sibao in Fujian for ancient woodblock printing

A free individual tour is a great way to explore ancient inventions in the rich historic culture of China. The vastness of China and numbers of ancient inventions make it almost impossible to visit many of them. However, we have one which is at our doorstep in Fujian – The Chinese ancient woodblock printing.
China Sibao Woodblock Printing Exhibition Centre in Longyan, Fujian
The earliest invention of woodblock printing can be dated back to Tang Dynasty. The woodblock printing led the contemporary world in printing technology and was the first of its kind in the world. The ancient town Sibao (四堡) in Longyan City, combining remnants of an ancient civilization with the diverse facets of contemporary life, is the only witness of the ancient woodblock printing and the living fossil of the ancient printing technology of China.
According to historical data, the woodblock printing in Sibao might appear in the late years of Southern Song Dynasty, or the reign of Emperor Chenghua in Ming Dynasty (1465-1487) or the 8th year (1580) during the reign of Emperor Wanli in Ming Dynasty. Though its origin remains uncertain today, the technology definitely has a long history. Through hundreds of years of development, the local woodblock printing in Sibao reached its heyday in the Qing Dynasty.
Located at the junction of Liancheng (连城), Changting (长汀), Qingliu (清流) and Ninghua (宁化), Sibao is an ancient town under the administration of Liancheng County. In its heyday, Sibao, together with Beijing, Wuhan and Huwan (浒湾) in Jiangxi Province, was one of the four woodblock centres and rose to fame in contemporary China. However, Sibao stood out for its excellent printing technology, good-quality printing paper, neat script, flexible font size, accurate typesetting, exquisite bookbinding and meticulous text checking.
Today, Sibao is the best preserved site of China's woodblock printing and is listed as a famous cultural town in Fujian Province. To better protect the cultural relics, the local government set up the China Sibao Woodblock Printing Exhibition Centre in 2000. The centre showcases more than 800 items of woodblock printed works that were handed down from ancestors, like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, The Butterfly Lovers, Analytical Dictionary of Chinese Characters, The Four Books, Five Classics, Three Character Primer, etc. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin are printed in the same script, with its upper half page printed the story of "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" and the lower half page printed the story of "Water Margin". This kind of page setup was unique in the history of printing.
Ziren House
The hospitable local residents are also Hakka people who live in tulou or earthen buildings. Different from round tulou, the earthen buildings which Sibao locals live in are quadrangle earthen dwellings. The architectural layout is ideal for family printing workshops. The most typical and best preserved dwelling is Ziren House Complex (子仁屋), which consists of Tianbao House (天宝楼), Wuben Hall (务本堂) and Hanbao House (翰宝楼). The house complex, integrating residence and book-printing workshops, has more than 140 rooms and 18 wells.

How to get there:


Click to enlarge


1). Self-driving


Route: Drive along Shenhai Expressway (沈海高速), turn right at Wansongguan (万松关) to Xiarong Expressway (厦榕高速) and exit at Xinquan Exit (新泉出口), continue to drive along G205 National Road to Sibao.


2). By long-distance bus


Start from Hubin Nan Long-distance Bus Station or Songbai Long-distance Bus Station to Liancheng, take a taxi there.


3). Use a travel agent


Renting a van with a driver is the next best alternative.