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The Shop Signs of Peking
Peking: Chinese Painting Association of Peking, 1931. First Edition. Hardcover. Very good. 18 leaves, 10 x 13.25 inches, oblong, in original string-tied brocade boards with mounted paper label. A few spots of loss to the brocade, offsetting from silver paint to adjacent pages, light soiling to title page, all else very good. Printed in an edition of just 100 copies, this volume contains 101 hand-colored illustrations with captions in English and Chinese, translating the purely pictorial signs into written form. Historically, Chinese shops used pictorial signs due to low literacy rates in the local population. Although certain aspects of the signs were fairly universal (depicting the articles for sale), as the author explains in the preface, "the shop signs of different parts of China var[ied] according to the customs of the people," especially when the items being sold were not easily represented by pictures. In these cases, centuries-old local traditions prevailed. Fung writes: "The wine flag can be recognized from a great distance, when one wants to satisfy his thirst, he will not have to strain his optic nerves to get what he wants; they are as conspicuous as the barber poles in Western Countries....The only explanation that I can give for the existence of these pictorial signs is that in the former times the percentage of illiteracy among the people was very low. I am sure with the establishment of the new public school system that most of the Chinese people can read the written language of the country. Therefore it is plain to see that these signs will gradually disappear as they are no longer necessary. Eventually they will become nothing but relics of the ancient Chinese Customs. So it is very advisable for those who are interested in things Chinese to add a copy of this album to their collection in Orientalia.".
      [Bookseller: Walkabout Books, ABAA]
Last Found On: 2018-02-23           Check availability:      IOBABooks    

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