Chinese scholars were liberated from the time-consuming and tedious task of writing manuscripts with the invention of the woodblock printing (Chinese characters carved on a block of wood) during the dominance of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). Woodblocks were first used in printing patterns on silk, but printing found another medium when paper was invented in China during the first century AD. The high-ranking government official Feng Dao (Feng-to) later played a large part in the widespread use of the movable wood blocks when he proposed the printing of the Nine Confucian classic. This is recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History during 900 AD.
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Feng Dao (882-954), formally known as the Prince Wenyi of Ying as well as Feng-To, lived during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907-960) after the fall of the Tang Dynasty. He became a high-ranking government official and served different dynasties, but eventually found himself serving the Later Tang emperor Minzong (Li Siyuan). In 932, he proposed for the emperor to authorize the printing of the nine Confucian Classics (specifically, Four Books and Five Classics) which included:
The Four Books
- Great Learning
- Doctrine of the Mean
The Five Classics
- Classic of Poetry
- Book of Documents
- Book of Rites
- I Ching
- Spring and Autumn Annals
The emperor approved his request, and the printing (which used the movable wood blocks that were better suited to individual Chinese characters) started in 932 AD. The books were released in 953 AD. These were quickly followed by the printing of three more books (The Annotation of the Classics, Classical Characters, and Jujing Ziyang) using the same method. The use of the movable wood blocks allowed many students easy access to the Confucian classics. All other printing during the Song and Yuan dynasties were later administered by the government.
Picture By Prospero Intorcetta, Philippe Couplet et al. – “Life And Works Of Confucius”, Prospero Intorcetta, et al., 1687, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2523905
Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Murphey, Rhoads. A History of Asia. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1996.
Yang, Hu, and Yang Xiao. Chinese Publishing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
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