Related news: Movable-type printing(活字印刷 huó zì yìn shuā ) is one of the “Four Great Inventions”(四大发明 sì dà fā míng) of ancient China. This time-honored technology finds a modern-day champion in the “Time Mark Printing House” in the coastal city of Qingdao.
Ruan Tongmin, the director of the specialist house was connected with the ancient craft since more than two decades ago.
In his thirties, Ruan started a new career in old printing. Getting started, however, proved much harder than he had expected. He had to contact a lot of antiques dealers and travel across the country in search of old machines and printing modules. After a year’s hard work, he finally managed to assemble everything he needed, and opened his printing house on Nanjing Road, which cost him some one million yuan.
Printing 印刷 yìn shuā
The Chinese invented block printing(雕版印刷 diāo bǎn yìn shuā) more than 1,400 years ago. The original characters were engraved on wood and ink was then applied. Block printing is time consuming and costs a lot of manpower and materials. Misprinted characters cannot be easily corrected. These shortcomings were only overcome after the emergence of movable type printing, which greatly improved the speed and quality of printing.
Bi Sheng(毕昇 bì shēng) of the Northern Song Dynasty invented the movable type printing. He engraved the Chinese characters on small cubes of sticky clay. He baked them in the fire until they became hard, movable characters. In the course of presswork, the movable characters were placed into an iron frame until it was full. He then took a smooth board and pressed it over the surface so that the block of type became even. Then ink was applied and it was ready for printing. To be more efficient, he prepared two iron boards. When one was being used for printing, the other could be used to arrange characters for the next page. The two boards were used alternately. Although what Bi Sheng invented was simple when compared to today's letterpress printing, it already had the main traits of modern printing. So Bi Sheng's contribution to printing cannot be overstated.