Talk:History of printing in East Asia

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I have started this article with text copied from the Johannes Gutenberg page. I will now merge into it text on these topics from other printing-related pages.

There are others here with a greater knowledge than mine, and i hope they will then proceed to fill in the necessary details. DGG

On the absence of printing presses in East Asia[edit]

In 1234, metal type casting, not the printing press was invented in Korea (See Early Korean Printing Pow-key Sohn, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 79, No. 2. (Apr. - Jun., 1959), pp. 98).

Printing presses remained unknown in East Asia until the introduction of Western style printing:

  • This association of die, matrix, and lead in the production of durable typefaces in large numbers and with each letter strictly identical, was one of the two necessary elements in the invention of typographic printing in Europe. The second necessary element was the concept of the printing press itself, an idea that had never been conceived in the Far East.

SOURCE: printing.Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 5, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD .

  • John Man, in his book, The Gutenberg Revolution (2002), emphasizes as well the absence of other elements in Eastern cultures that could favor the invention of a Gutenberg-style press: “Chinese paper was suitable only for calligraphy or block-printing; there were no screw-based presses in the east, because they were not wine-drinkers, didn’t have olives, and used other means to dry their paper.”

SOURCE: Ricardo Duchesne, Asia First?, The Journal of the Historical Society VI, 1 (March 2006), p.83 Gun Powder Ma 04:45, 23 November 2006 (UTC)


As it is widely accepted that EA printing did not know or use presses, we have to clarify what Richard Lane could have meant with a press. Could someone provide an exact quote, or even better a technical description? Otherwise, we have to add additional quotes which make it clear that such a device did not exist then in Japan. The same is obviously true for the supposed Korean press. These seem to be all counter-factual claims.

Though the Jesuits operated a movable type printing-press in Nagasaki, an Asian press[8] brought back by Toyotomi Hideyoshi's army from Korea in 1593 had far greater influence on the development of the medium. Four years later, Tokugawa Ieyasu, even before becoming shogun, effected the creation of the first native movable type press,[8] using wooden type-pieces rather than metal. Gun Powder Ma 18:27, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

You will see I have added a section on Japan, with refs, which refers to Korean printing presses. This is a reduced version of material added by User:Lord Ameth to Woodblock printing in Japan. I've asked him if his refs have anything on what such objects looked like or did, but he has not. Until we get better information, I see no problem in using the term (carefully distinguished from a JG press, as he has done) to describe any set of kit that enabled the printing of substantial works with moveable type - ie type-forms for the set type, boxes for the unused type, various bit of ancillary equipment etc. As far as i can tell, the actual "pressing" may have been by the usual manual "rubbing" process, but we don't know yet. Nor whether both sides of the paper could be printed, which would probably depend on that.

Johnbod 18:33, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Traditional Chinese bookmaking This may not give a definite answer on bookmaking in Japan, but Chinese traditional books were printed only on every second leaf. Gun Powder Ma 19:22, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
no we will NOT have to "add additional quotes which make it clear that such a device did not exist then in Japan", since we have references (in WP in Japan) from 2 hefty academic tomes saying that they did. That would be "original research" without actually doing any research. We should find out more & then qualify/add as necessary.

Johnbod 18:33, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

I see HUGE trouble in that. We just had a difficult time in keeping out any such claims from various pages relating to printing, and now the same old stuff is being introduced through the backdoor, confusing everybody. The term printing press is clearly defined by the Gutenberg press, or more generally, the screw-based presses then known and used. What you are describing is, as you say yourself, a rubbing process. This is not even remotely similar to printing by pressing, unless one wants to blur all definitional lines. I take it out, until Lord Ameth is so kind as to provide additinal, detailed information. I do it on the basis of the two sources provided by me above. Regards Gun Powder Ma 18:38, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
I can't accept that. Your two sources are Man, a popularising book on JG for the general reader, & the EB from an article on printing in general, not EA in particular. Mine (or rather Lord Ameth's) are two specialist academic works. There can be no question as to which are the stronger. Do you think Man, or that EB author, can even read Japanese or Korean? The article print-press, as you know describes many kind of presses, with & without screws. To assert a screw is a necessary element in a printing-press is absurd.

Johnbod 18:46, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Dear Johnbod,

  • I have several peer-reviewed article on Korean printing neither of which mentions a printing press or even a remotely similar device. Considering the, just say, national pride which Korean authors often display at this topic, you can be absolutely sure, that they would have done so, if there were only a trace of evidence. But no mention of a PP in:
    • Pow-key Sohn - Early Korean Printing
    • Ch'on Hye-bong - Typography in Korea
    • Sohn Pow-kee - Printing since the 8th century in Korea

Also, for Japan, no mention of a PP in

  • Ryoshin Minami - Mechanical Power and Printing Technlogy in Pre-World War II Japan

In contrast, I provided two respectable sources explicitly saying that there were no PP in EA:

  • The article in the EB is actually many thousands of words long, and, so far, clearly more informed than ours at Wikipedia.
  • John Man: The Gutenberg Revolution (2002)

Moreover, Printing press specifically says that the PP was invented by Gutenberg, and so far, no-one has taken there objection to this on reasonable grounds. Screw presses were the first presses and for a very long time the only ones both in agriculture and in printing. All subsequent developments, like the steam-powered press and the rotary press, directly stem from JG's press. And weren't you the one who rejected an entry of the borderline case of the Phaistos disc at printing? But now you start inserting twice as controversial material here. I do not want to raise bad feelings, but given the effort we have put into clarifying the question of the PP's origin, I can't accept that either. Kind regards Gun Powder Ma 19:10, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

If I may say so, it is rather typical of you to revert the WHOLE section on Japan.

Johnbod 18:51, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

To be honest, I am very aware of that, and I tried to figure out how to save as much content as possible, but I have no access to your sources, and it was all so interwoven with the supposed existence of a PP, that I saw no other choice. Of course, I fully support any restoration which either leaves out the PP or gives sufficient credibility to its existence in EA. Gun Powder Ma 19:10, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
well I will put it back in as printing-equipment or similar, for the moment

Johnbod 19:46, 9 December 2006 (UTC)


Professor Hee-Jae Lee of Sookmyung Women's University, Korea makes it clear that Korean's printing hand rubbed was hand rubbed. So the Japanese couldn't have brought over a printing press from Korea. It may be a language translation, where what was meant was that the Japanese brought over Korean printing equipment, and not a "mechanical press" You see that a lot in the articles on printing, where they say "printing press" when they really mean printing. Lee's artcile on "Korean Typography in the 15th Century" is very good, and does a job of comparing Korean style printing with Gutenberg. I found it at PS - If it can be accepted without discussion that the Chinese independently developed metal type with Korea just next door, then it becomes extremely unlikely Gutenberg was influenced by Korean or Chinese printing half a world away. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:24, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

about the fact tags[edit]

Some "citation wanted tags" were just placed on this page. But this is inside the direct quotation from christensen's article. The article is presumably quoted correctly. To what extent it is based of facts is not what we are considering here. I have placed a suitable comment instead. I would of course, be very grateful if christensen would add here some references to the details. It is his published OR, so we can cite it, but it is better to cite something more specific. DGG 05:58, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

Honestly, I do not know how to proceed. What do the Wikipedia rules say when an unfactual quote is given? It goes without saying that quotes have to be subject to the same scrutiny as the text written by users, so how do we establish a quality control here? Gun Powder Ma 12:09, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
The tags were clearly nonsense. Only question here is whether Christensen is expert in the field of typography. Actually it would hepl if the quoted article was published in peer reviewed source. If not it might be a problem to have a quotation here. --Jan.Smolik 12:51, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
The quote is to 50% incorrect, and actually Christensen says right before the passage that there is currently no evidence to suggest a transmission. At best the quote is conjecture, at worst it is taken out of context. So how do you want to proceed? Gun Powder Ma 23:25, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
Actually what part exactly is factually incorrect and why? Christensen article is richly referenced and I do not think he just used any random numbers. --Jan.Smolik 11:28, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

what to do[edit]

Thomas Christensen is director of publications at the Asian_Art_Museum_of_San_Francisco a world-famous collection, and the available documentation would justify an WP entry for him. Although he is not an academically-trained curator, there is no possible doubt that he is expert for WP purposes. The magazine, Arts of Asia, though not peer-reviewed, is a suitable source. The quote is simply from the introduction to his article, and all these elements are discussed in more detail later, with academic citations given (mostly secondary works; a few research articles). I have finally read it, and he does have some suggestive evidence, and I will insert suitable quotations or mentions in this article:

  • Chinese textile motives were known in Western Europe by 1500, but apparently there is no evidence for Chinese printed textile designs in European printed textiles.
  • Chinese printed currency was known in the west from 1255--this is something I had seen before, and was wondering that it had not been mentioned in the discussion here. It is reported in one reliable source (William Ruysbroeck) and one questionable one (Marco Polo)(from blocks, of course). When the Mongols conquered Persia, it was used there.
  • Playing cards were used first in China, which I had not known, and of course were also one of the uses for woodblock printing in Europe. There seems to be no archeological evidence, but it is reasonable to me that it anything was transmitted & the objects not preserved, it might have been playing cards.
    • but all his quotes simply say "must have been" and its variants, which is no proof of anything.
    • --and none of this of course is movable type--wood or metal--
  • as for wood type, the type invented by Bi Sheng it is known to have been used later -- by one of K. Khan's councilors.
  • The Uighurs, did have wood movable type, and he has an illustration of some, though I need to check they are not reconstructions. .
  • Metal movable type was unquestionably used in Korea at a time just prior to its conquest by the Mongols
    • And again no direct evidence.

I am a bibliographer working with contemporary science material, not an historian of printing except as an amateur with related training. I have no authority in this subject--Ma, you do not have a user page--do you have any?


  1. the quote stands, or will be replaced & supplemented with more precise ones from his AiA article & its sources
  2. we can & should look for other quotes from other authorities. In his AiA article there is one:

"As Eva Hanebutt-Benz properly observes, “We do not know if Johannes Gutenberg had any kind of knowledge of the fact that long before his invention printing with moveable type was done in East-Asia.” inserted in Gutenberg page, since it had been edited & I needed to adjust it.

    1. It seems that much of his work uses as a secondary source the vol. of printing from the well known Tsuen-Hsuin, Tsien. “Paper and Printing,” part one of vol. 5 in Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. I read the first 2 or 3 volumes by Needham a good many years ago--I meant to continue but I never did. Now I will.
If I were writing an academic article, I would read all the sources he uses and the other literature on the subject, and write my own summary and publish it. I have checked his bibliography, and almost all are in English and available to me at Princeton; a critical symposium is not available there, but will surely be somewhere in NYC, and he would probably honour a photocopy request for the 2 articles cited therein. This gets us far beyond WP.

DGG 06:59, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

As you said, all this proves nothing. The motives are on record only 70 years after Gutenberg's invention (he worked on the printing press already in the 1430s). Chinese-style printed currency spread not farther west than Tabriz, Persia, and that only briefly. Playing cards are known to have been transmitted via Arab Egypt, but since the Arabs did not use (or even know) woodblock printing, the Europeans cannot have gained knowledge of it by that way either.
And the highly speculative diffusion theories of Mr. Needham have been now refuted by many specialists in the field, so I wonder why he is still so often quoted. Out of the top of my head, I know this to be the case of the supposed transmission of the stern-mounted rudder, the segmental arch bridge and the description of blood ciculation, and there are many others more.
The point is that we must be aware that there is universal agreement among experts that there is no evidence of transmission. Even the most diffusionistic author concede the point that theirs is mere conjecture. On every Mr. Christensen as pro-diffusion claim, we can quote 10 to 50 authors as contra-diffusion source. Shall we do that really? Gun Powder Ma 11:17, 24 November 2006 (UTC)
The part of Needham's treatise that deal with paper and printing was written by Tsuen-Hsuin, Tsien.
Universal agreement among scholars, if you mean universal literally, is not often found, because the agreed-upon parts are not what scholars work on. And even were we all great scholars & competent to judge, the consensus on major historical topics will not be the same a century from now. Nor will the currently written articles of WP be read except as the oddities of our old-fashioned view. (& thats what I think of the 1911 EB as a source).
As far as i personally am concerned, the problem is NPOV, which does not let there be parallel articles. Reading different views is how one learns to judge, not by reading homogenized mush. But this is an even bigger problem elsewhere in WP.

Enough for one day, extended a little. DGG 08:29, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

I actually think that both oppinions should be included. There will still be people who will believe it happened and people who will not. BTW.: The quotation from Christensen actually does not say it happened, it only says it was possible. That is a huge difference and it does not contradict the fact, that there is no evidence of it happening. --Jan.Smolik 11:49, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

The problem is that Christensen makes several inaccurate, perhaps even wrong claims in his statement, and therefore I propose to delete it. Point by point:
What is certain, however, is that printing with movable wooden type is documented from the eleventh century. Possibly wrong. Wasn't wooden movable type invented by Wang Cheng in 1313?
that printing with movable metal type had been an active enterprise in Korea since 1234. Misleading. "There is no information regarding the printing of Sangjong yemun (ca 1234) until 1392, when a publication office was set up by the government in the last year of the Koryo dynasty for the purpose of cast printing." (Pow-key san: Early Korean Printing, Journal of the American Oriental Society 1959, p.100). Although this statement is today inaccurate either (the first Korean movable metal type book has been found in the meantime and dated to 1377), it is still a fact that between 1234 and 1377 there is no evidence whatsoever of Korean movable type printing being actively pursued!
"that other printing technologies had Asian origins and were subsequently transmitted to the West". Unproven. The Wiki entry on woodblock printing says: "Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text or images used widely throughout East Asia and originating in Eygpt and China sometime between the mid-6th and late 9th centuries as a method of printing on paper and cloth. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from Eygpt date to the 6th or 7th centuries." Isn't it far more likely that such printing techniques have been transmitted (if at all) to Europe from Egypt (common Christianity, trade links with Italy)?
"that a single empire (the Mongol khanates) stretched from Korea to Europe through much of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries". Not correct. As early as the reign of Kublai Khan (1260-1294) Mongol unity had only a formal character. After his death, the different Mongol empire actually began actively fighting each other.
"that there was considerable East-West travel". Misleading. It was travel from West to East. Most intercontinental travellers came from the West, I do not know of a single instance where a Chinese traveller or merchant came to Europe.
"that there was awareness of Asian printing in Europe in the centuries before Gutenberg". Inaccurate to wrong. There is, again, no evidence that Europeans were aware of East Asian woodblock or movable metal printing of texts. The only mode of printing which they were aware of is woodblock printed paper money which apparently several travellers recorded. And even this obviously had no impact as paper money was not introduced before 1658 in Sweden! "Paper money is the one form of Chinese printing which was noticed by medieval travellers. Yet there was no printing of paper money in Europe till the issue of 1658 in Sweden." (Review of Thomas Carter by George Sarton: The invention of Printing in China and its spread westward, Isis, Vol. 8, No.2 (May, 1926) pp.361-373 (p. 368))
This book is btw AFAIK the only serious Western source which claims a westward transmission of printing. I invite you to study it, and see that all the speculation of the author has sufficiently been addresses over and over again in the meantime by three generations of scholars. There is still no more evidence today than 80 years ago.
I therefore propose to delete the passage, and allow in future only speculation (more than that is isn"t anyway) of a renowned author who has done his homework.
Yes in the light what you write the passage should be deleted. However I do not think we should delete the information completely. His article is well sourced (better than most Wikipedia articles), and is far better than most popular articles (although it is not peer reviewed and would likely fail). So I would suggest to include that 1) some authors think that transmission of the idea was possible 2) some authors claim that moveble types were used before 1377 (in 1234). I just skimmed the article but it seems he is quoting "Tsien" (whoever he is). The reason for including it is mainly fact that somebody will come in the future and add it anyway as people usually are glad to add information that contradicts facts in the article. So it is best to include these information now and comment them than that they are added later as "facts". --Jan.Smolik 20:49, 26 November 2006 (UTC)
Ma, my apologies for not seeing this earlier, but I though we were off the topic till Jan.

It is simply not good strategy to delete material from Christensen on the basis that you & I think he is wrong, or for not taking Sarton seriously because you assert later scholarship has shown otherwise. I think you would do well to re-examine the previous edits you have made on such a basis. The only way to deal with a reasonably recognized authority that you think is wrong is to add citations to other authorities. I think we are getting a little too near to OR here--and this is asking for trouble when someone comes & thinks otherwise. After the article is published, and the journal is an extremely well known journal with a good deal of circulation to amateurs, someone will reinsert. Sarton is an extremely well known book, and someone will reinsert. Better to leave in a summary. Better to expand the article than reduce it. Reducing an article too much is a standing invitation to the first bystander who thinks he knows about it. It is quite sufficient to list the speculations and the facts & let people think, which is what WP is for, not for the decision of scholarly controversies. I leave it up to your more considered judgment. DGG 05:55, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

What can I say? I feel if we are always afraid of later re-insertions, we are basically capitulating, and saying yes to everything published. The basic fact is that every article only has or should have limited space. That means we have to make selections. But when one starts adding material which is controversial, others can't be kept from adding 'counter-material' which is perhaps just as controversial to balance things out. Personally, I do not feel that is the way Wiki or any ency should work. IMO we have to follow quality standards, even if this means we have sometims to play censor. Because, given the limited space of any article, we have to do that anyway! We cannot include everything. So better follow from the start a policy where we are not afraid outright saying that some statements are better than other, that some merit an insertion more than others. I tried to outline above why Christensen's statement was particularly uninformed.

Note that I am not against any diffusionistic statement, but that particularly one. Regards Gun Powder Ma 02:07, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

There is a image of a Korean book printed with metal movable type in the Library of Congress and they claim it is "edited and printed in about 1241." That is a lot earlier than the quote "Among books printed with metal movable type, the oldest surviving books are from Korea, dated at least from 1377." Is it possible to change this based on an internet source?White Krane 19:51, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes if the site is of that quality; give a link to the page as a ref, with the date it was seen in case the page changes or disappears. Johnbod 19:56, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

Thanks Johnbod! I emailed the source to make sure it is not a fascimili or a mistake since other websites make no mention of the 1241 example. Check it out if you are interested! (it is near the bottom of the website)


User:LordAmeth has very kindly & quickly added at my request an article on Woodblock printing in Japan, an overview covering both artistic & book uses. There are some interesting angles relevant to here there that you won't need me to point out. I have added the relevant bits to woodcut for the art & woodblock printing for the books, but will leave you guys to add to this one. He is (obviously) a Japanese specialist, as you will see from his user page, but not expert on this, so won't know (I imagine) much more without further research Johnbod 00:53, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Western prints[edit]

DGG, where is the comment I was replying to here (& you below)? reorganized to somewhere else? Johnbod 15:40, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

  • The passage:

"But historians of the Western prints themselves see no need for such a connection, as they see a clear progression from patterns to images, both printed on cloth, then to images printed on paper, when it became widely available in Europe in about 1400.[2] Text and images printed together only appear some sixty years later, after metal movable type..."

- is contrasting the opinions of historians of Asian subjects with those of historians of Western printmaking. The standard work in the field remains Hind (still available in paperback), but Antony Griffiths (current Head of Prints & Drawings at the British Museum - in "Prints and Printmaking") and Richard S Field (who wrote the Catalogue of the Early woodcuts in the NGA Washington, 1967), and the authors of the catalogue of the 2006 exhibition at the NGA all concur (they had two of the largest woodblock printed cloths in the exhibition). All these later works still reference Hind as the standard long work in English btw; it is unlikely he will be replaced soon.

It was not in fact Needham but I think Tsieng who wrote the volume you refer to as Needham; neither of them are specialists in Western prints, but are specialists on China. Curzon is an amateur gentleman scholar of mostly Byzantine and Asian subjects, who wrote well before the large amount of (mostly German) scholarship on Western prints in the late nineteenth-century.

I oppose absolutely the chiselling away of this text by weasel words. If you can find any reputable specialist in early European woodcut who posits such a connection, let's have the references.

I would also be fascinated to hear why you regard Hind as "chauvinist"! Johnbod 03:26, 24 December 2006 (UTC)

It was Tsien Ysuen-Hsuin (spelling as in the SCC vol.) (Profession of Chinese Liteature, and Library Science, at the University of Chicago) who wrote the printing etc volume of the Needham opus.(v.5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, pt 1, paper and printing, 1985, ISBN for the vol. 0-521-08690-6) and we might replace some of the Needham references in general with the actual author. Tsien also wrote a popular work, Written on Bamboo and Silk, 1962, before he did the work for the SCC volume. I am finally reading the SCC volume, but it will take a while, but I have no intention of adding things piece by piece while the pages remain unstable. In talking about historical probabilities, some of the expressions "may have" and similar usages are not weasel word, they describe the state of the art. Curzon was an amateur by 20th c. standards & may have been suitable for quoting in 1913, but now I would consider him citable only in an article on the development of scholarship about E Asia, to illustrate the 19th c. pre-professional phase.
I think it would be a good idea to confine ALL the speculations about the spread of printing from China to the HTEA article, thus making it necessary to argue each point only once. If it gets too large, then we can do a specific Spread of Printing from EA to match the Western one. Spread is appropriate, because it did spread to other parts of Asia.
My personal biases on the basis of probability is a/that the idea of a woodcut is so straight-forward that I am surprised it was not invented several times, not just two. b/The knowledge that a printed object existed, does not mean that there were any clues about how the object was produced. c/I cannot understand why printers of the early devotional European prints with a line or two of text at the bottom did not get the idea of separating the two parts of the block for reuse, and also not the further idea of cutting the letters or words apart.
Incidentally, Wood movable type was used in later centuries through at least the 19th for large display lettering and newspaper headlines. I assume each letter was carved individually, but I haven't seen it discussed, & I would have thought there were problems printing it in the same impression as the metal type, as it could not have been made to the same dimensional accuracy. Another thing we haven't discussed in the use of type-ornaments, both metal and wood, and I think ornaments built up of several pieces of such elements. DGG 08:12, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
Taking your various points:
  • -Thanks for Tsien Y-H ref; yes, references should be corrected.
  • -The weasel words I was referring were the insertion of "some" before "historians of the Western prints..." and removal of "clear" before "progression from ...". I think these instances exactly fit the definition. I still see a sharp divergence between the two specialisms. I recently looked at the 2006 NGA DC exhibition large catalogue on exactly this issue - no change at all in the usual account.
  • -agree re Curzon; delightful chap though he clearly was to winkle all those manuscripts out of abbots
  • -fine by me, but the now scattered threads may need gathering.
  • - woodcut: a) or 3 times - India is the big gap in the woodblock printing article. b)they can tell a surprising amount by very close examination in many cases. c)short texts below pics were usually captions - pointless to separate. It was still often easier to leave short texts to be written in manuscript. This continued surprisingly late.
  • - it would not have been a problem printing wood and metal together; wood engraving was the standard method of magazine illustration for the mid-C19 & did huge press-runs for Harpers, The Illustrated London News etc. These were cut across the end-grain, not along it like woodcut. The cutting of the block could be done mechanically to a very adequate degree of accuracy; it worked well even for large illustrations.
  • - For type-ornaments my metalcut is relevant, as many were in this technique (also decorative borders). Johnbod 09:34, 24 December 2006 (UTC)


As discussed for some time, I have expanded the sections of movable type with the additional material that has been accumulted at the [[Movable type] article. Next step will be to summarize the material there to refer to the main section here. DGG 05:28, 6 January 2007 (UTC)


  1. "tens of thousands of printed books" I've been wondering about that one myself. Perhaps the meaning is "volumes" as the Triptaka was about 5,000 or more vols. by itself. I would be surprised if thousnds of different books, in the western sense of "works" had been block-printed. DGG 07:02, 14 April 2007 (UTC)
I think 10s of 1000s of titles would have been reached, but maybe not this early. I will change it to volumes & remove the tag for now, but better info would be helpful. Johnbod 13:32, 14 April 2007 (UTC)
  1. we do need to find just where Curzon wrote that immature yet self-assured nonsense, not that it matters.
on-line I think, Proj Gutenberg etc. Johnbod 13:32, 14 April 2007 (UTC)
  1. some of the others seem obvious generalizations from the material presented and sourced. DGG 07:02, 14 April 2007 (UTC)
agree Johnbod 13:32, 14 April 2007 (UTC)

Reference and citation additions[edit]

I just added citations to back up Bi Sheng, added info on Wang Zhen, the inventor of wooden movable type printing in China (between the years 1297 and 1298, when he was an administrative official of Jingde), and added info on Hua Sui, who separately invented metal movable type in China by 1490, although he certainly could have had influence from earlier Korean movable type printng.--PericlesofAthens 14:41, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

Thanks! we could use more content here. I adjusted the citations a little: the entire vol. is the intellectual responsibility of Prof. Tsien. It was published in the series started by Needham and of course known by his name--but all the later vols. were written by separate individual specialists, and this format was used for other refs from this work. It makes a difference--JN is not known as a specialist in printing, but Tsien decidedly is (Professor Emeritus of Chinese Literature and Library Science, and Curator Emeritus of the Far Eastern Library, University of Chicago). In fact, Needham;s authority in this field was questioned in the discussion of one of the related articles. I'm a research librarian, but not a far eastern specialist, and if you think it should be the other way round, (i.e. Needham, J. Science and Civilization in China. Vol.5 pt. 1 by Tsien, T-H. , we can discuss it and then get all the refs. to agree. DGG 05:18, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

Empress Wu Characters[edit]

Since someone (i.e. IP address reverted my edits from cited material from Joseph Needham, apparently someone doesn't like the fact that the dharani scroll found in Korea was written with Chinese characters of Empress Wu, which were only used in China and only during her reign. Please, Korean nationalists, you have the oldest example of successful metal movable type, before the Chinese; there's no need to blatanly falsify history in order to claim a Chinese invention, especially in reverting cited material.--Pericles of AthensTalk 02:36, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

Moreover, where's the evidence that Empress Wu's characters were ever used or even accepted in Korea during her reign? I heavily doubt there is any evidence.--Pericles of AthensTalk 02:46, 17 August 2008 (UTC)
The fact that Empress Wu's Chinese characters were used in the writing of the Pure Light Dharani Sutra doesn't mean that China is the country that printed it. In fact, the usage of the these characters in combination with the unique Shilla calligraphy and unique Korean paper used in the printing of the Pure Light Dharani Sutra only seem to confirm that the document was printed before 751AD. Please do some research to the contrary before making such extreme claims. I do not mean to offend you in any way with this post; however, I find it quite annoying when users like TheLeopard say to "Provide proper attribution to the statements; some of them might be original research" when I've done so quite extensively beforehand. Please read the following article: (talk) 23:44, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

You know, much of this wouldn't be a problem if you didn't constantly revert MY material from Needham and Temple. Even if your source completely goes against what Needham and Temple have to say, it still isn't grounds to remove Needham and Temple. You are out of your element.--Pericles of AthensTalk 23:46, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

I agree, and I am sincerely sorry. I will try to merge both of our materials together in order to attempt to show both sides of the coin. If you have any revisions you would like to make to the edit I am about to make, please feel free to do so as long as it does not take away from what I have written. Also, it's not that serious, but I found it ironic how you told me not to remove cited material and then blatantly deleted a whole section of cited material. I'll be adding that section back in for a bit of balance. (talk) 23:54, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
That link you provided is from an online Korean news site, and cites no work by any scholars. That is hardly credible. SHOW ME the names of scholars (i.e. with proven degrees in history and preferably publishing under a university press) who claim the dharani sutra was made with Korean paper and that Empress Wu's characters used calligraphy styles unique only to Korea. Your "evidence" is wearing thin.--Pericles of AthensTalk 23:50, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
Ok, but that still does not address the question: who (and by who I mean what scholar) supports this theory? Who is putting their scholarly credibility on the line to support this, I ask, because so far you have shown me nothing (in terms of scholarly sources, I hope you understand what that is).--Pericles of AthensTalk 23:56, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
Here's a source, although it's in Korean. The scholar's name is Choe Junshik, and he purports that the calligraphy used in the writing of the Mugujanggwangdaedaranigyeong (Pure Light Dharani Sutra) actually utilized characters invented by Shilla, the same country that encased the Sutra into the pagoda at Bulguksa Temple. I've made a significant revision to the article that encompasses all of our revisions with a sprinkling of terms like 'supposedly' and 'purportedly' to provide a little balance and to let the reader decide for himself/herself. I hope you find it to be well-balanced. (talk) 01:25, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Very nice, I'm glad you've finally found someone who supports this view. Do you know anything about Choe Junshik? Not only where he earned his degree, but also which publisher publishes his work? Are his findings supported by other scholars (i.e. scholarly consensus)? Surely something this important is not going to go unnoticed by the scholarly community.--Pericles of AthensTalk 01:35, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

In an edit summary, IP Address, you say:

@Pericles: Should the new opening sentence even be included? Patterns do not qualify as "type" or "typography" and cloth definitely is not "woodblock printing.")

I don't think it is very necessary either; I just moved it because it was interrupting what should have been a united paragraph talking about the same document. If you wish to remove the mentioning of patterns, I certainly would have no qualms with that.--Pericles of AthensTalk 01:41, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Sure, I'll go ahead and remove that extraneous sentence. I also did a little research on Choe Junshik. It turns out that she is a professor at Ewha Womans University (yes, it is actually spelled that way for historical reasons) and that she earned her doctorate degree at Temple University in the United States. (talk) 20:10, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

I find the appearance of this article as of right now to be quite disappointing (after this anonymous IP user started to make massive changes to it). It is very messy in its layout and format (definitely not easy to the eyes) and untidy. I also find it unbelievable and quite amusing that someone would dispute the Chinese origin of woodblock printing. Open up any major encyclopedias, pretty much all of them and many academic references would attribute woodblock and printing's origin to China. It might be that the earliest "examples" of woodblock printing (Dharani Sutra) appeared in Korea (regardless whether it is Chinese originated), but whose to say that woodblock printing is a Korean invention? None of the references this anonymous user cited claimed such. I doubt you'll find any non-Korean sources that would tell you that woodblock printing's origin isn't in China.--TheLeopard (talk) 05:50, 6 September 2008 (UTC)

All of this is irrelevant now[edit]

After reading Pan's article (look here to read the abstract), featured in Chinese Science Bulletin and published by Science Press, co-published with Springer-Verlag GmbH, he has not only proven a Chinese origin of that dharani sutra, but also discusses two Chinese dharani sutras which are even older, dated both to the 7th century. Therefore, I have removed the mountain of materail needlessly discussing the Pure Light Dharani Sutra, since its significance has been diminished compared to the Tang printed sutra excavated in Xi'an and dated from 650 to 670 AD.--Pericles of AthensTalk 12:38, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

This article looks much cleaner and organized now by scrapping all of the extaneous material (which in many instances repeated statements found earlier in the article anyway).--Pericles of AthensTalk 12:39, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

World oldest printed book discovered in Korea[edit]

According to, The oldest known surviving printed document is a Buddhist scripture recently discovered in Korea, which dates to 751AD. This is much older than printed books in China and other printed books from Korea as well. Why isn't this mention at article? Another Chinese blocking the real source?--Korsentry 05:15, 30 April 2009 (UTC)--Korsentry 05:15, 30 April 2009 (UTC) — Preceding comment signed as by Korsentry (talkcontribs) actually added by KoreanSentry (talkcontribs).

Possible reference worth exploring?[edit]

In the chinese wikipedia article on movable type 活字印刷术, a book by Juan González de Mendoza Juan González de Mendoza was used as a reference regarding the introduction of the chinese printing methods to europe.

The chinese wiki article goes further to conjecture their causal relationship in this book 《中国纸和印刷文化史》 (author: 钱存训) (chapter 8: 《纸与印刷术的西传》).

Maybe the text by Juan González de Mendoza would be helpful to the discussion going on in this article and the printing press article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:00, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Note that Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza was born in 1540 (see Wikipedia article referenced), about a century after Gutenberg. Printing by then was well established in the Europe. West, both type and wood block printing. De Mendoza would be too late to have an impact on European printing. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:24, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

Johannes Gutenberg is to be credited with introducing movable type printing in Europe during the 1440s, roughly a century before European powers had direct trade contacts with Ming China (starting with Portugal).--Pericles of AthensTalk 06:27, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

woodblocks and typography[edit]

I've added a fair bit to the woodblock section because it's an important topic not covered elsewhere. Its importance historically may well be underrated as it gave rise to the first print culture and survived till the 20th century in China. I realise that it's not "typography" in the strict sense, but moving this material would require quite a bit of adjustment to other links--printing, history of printing, printing press etc. In particular the comparison of block printing and movable type is mainly relevant to East Asia as it's much more an issue for logographic (sinographic?) cultures than alphabetic cultures and so is probably best here.

Some other material duplicates material in the woodblock printing article. It's a pity there weren't any obvious pointers to that article from here. I'm inclined to improve the pointers in the printing articles and move what's relevant to the woodblock articles. Does this make sense? Chris55 (talk) 00:07, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

To be more specific: should this article be renamed "History of printing in East Asia"? Chris55 (talk) 11:48, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

Removed the unrelated section on European woodblock printing per WP:SYN. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:18, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
There is clearly a possible connection between the Chinese invention of printing and Gutenberg's. Since you have systematically deleted references to this from the Printing press article and elsewhere, it's hard to imagine where else it could appear in Wikipedia. That section appears more neutral than the text which you have inserted into the Woodblock printing section and represents the consensus of historical opinion more fairly. Chris55 (talk) 23:55, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
A possible (in other words, hypothetical) connection between clay movable type in 11th-century Song China and that of Gutenberg's is not as relevant as strong solid evidence to support the case. Gutenberg was actually using metal movable type about five decades before Hua Sui experimented with it in Ming China. That alone should pretty much end the discussion, let alone the fact that there was no sustained or meaningful contacts between European powers and China until the early 16th century.--Pericles of AthensTalk 06:33, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
You are right Pericles, of course. Metal movable type spread to China from Korea only in the late 15th century, decades after Gutenberg made his own invention. And it was made of the copper and bronze type, while Europeans printers used lead type which had superior printing qualities. But there are still more vital pieces of information missing:
  • that there is only a single source reporting on Bi Sheng and his invention, Shen Kuo
  • that Bi Sheng ceramic and wooden types were impractical
  • that after Bi Sheng, movable types was not used anywhere in China for over two hundred years
  • that there only a handful of movable type printers in China prior to Gutenberg. I am counting from the top of my head not more than four persons until the late 14th century, although I haven't fully looked into the matter
  • that movable type printing remained so rare an enterprise that Chinese and Korean scholars thought Western movable type to be an altogether new thing upon its introduction in the late 19th century
For all this I have reliable sources to back-up, but as yet I have found neither time nor patience with some unknowledgable users who have made it their business to hype the non-starter movable type in China had always been over a vast array of unrelated articles on printing. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 01:32, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
GPM, you still seem to presume that the casting of movable metal type is all there is to printing. Although the Koreans produced it by 1403, rather before Gutenberg, I've never suggested that there was any western transmission of that technique. As you point out, it only reached China in the late 15th century, presumably from Korea, although there is some uncertainty whether the early experiments there used carved rather than moulded type. Wooden movable type was invented by Wang Chen and used in 1297-8 and employed on a much wider scale in subsequent dynasties. But printing depends on (a) the idea of reproduction (b) paper (c) a relief block constructed somehow (d) suitable ink (e) a means of impression. All of these were being used in Europe before Gutenberg and that's mostly what transmission theories are about. There were huge differences both in language and in business organisation between east and west, which is why I've tried to stick to the effectiveness of woodblock printing in the east. Chris55 (talk) 15:32, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

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