Calico-Printing in China.

Scientific American 19, 27.1.1849

There are print-works in the city of Canton, some of which employ as many as fifty work people. THe inhabitants of the suburbs who wish to have their calicoes printed in their houses engage itinerant workmen who carry about with them the necessary implements and perform the operations when required. The impression is made with blocks of considenrable dimensions made of a scarce wood called "Tasp-mon," which is brought from Onom. The engraving of the block is very carefully executed and is expensive.

Fashion is so little liable to change in China, that the same blocks generally serve for about ten years; and the Chinese are so very jealous of foreigners that it is with difficulty and only with hight prices that they will dispose of them fearing they might be imitated by European manufacturers. The habit of the Chinese to do most things the reverse manner to that in which they are in Europe, is in no instance more remarkable than in the manufacture of printed goods. Instead of applying the block to the piece, the block is a fixture, and the piece is applied to the block. The operations are performed with slight variations the same at all places in China w[h]ere printed goods are manufactured and those of Ningpå may serve as on illustration. The block being first adjusted two men stretch tightly and ajust the cloth over the engraved part of it; the form or relief is consequently made to protrude those parts of the cloth in contact with it beyond the general surface.

The cloth is then made to adherre to the block by beating it with a wooden mallet first prerared by making numerous puctures in it with pointed instruments. The workman then dips a duitable brush into water, and dexterously passes ut over the surface of the cloth, in such a manner that the parts protruded by the figures of the block, only vecome moistened, which serves as a preparation for the reception of the colouring matter, and which is applied in precisely a similar manner, using color instead of water. The dry parts which have escaped the damping and coloring operations do not easily absorb, though sometimes stains occur, - which, however, are genrally on the back part of the piece as the front is that which adheres to the block. It requires great precision a steady hand, and a quick eye on the part of the workmen, to touch with the brush only the forms and designs which are projected - imperfectly visible - by the block and which are intended only to receive the colour.

The workshops of Ningpo are very small. In rooms looking on to the street, workmen may be seen operating and on the same chamber finished prints suspeded. In another room there may be probably, another table at work, a stove to dry the pieces and an apparatus for the color; and at the other end may be observed a species of laboratory - a miserable affair - and a ktchen. A Chinese printer can earn about two shillings a day.

The colous used are always of a definite character; they never produce any modified tints, being in perfect ignorance relative to the properties of mordants.

At Canton are manufactured very small hankerchiefs with borders, white ground and fillings of blue, at about two shillings per dozen. They also print larger hankerchiefs, with coloured grounds the pattern of large flowers, birds, &c., about one whilling each. They are shocking productions, and covered with stains. The only passable goods of Chinese manufacture are brought from "Liou-Tchou," which is the Manchester of China. The designs have quite an European character from their neatnessa and brilliancy of colour. Those of Changhai are very inferior. The patterns consists of very grotesque figures, and the cloth is thick and inferior.

Sometimes however fine English long cloths are employed. It is remarkable, that at the present day Chinese industry should have occasion to make such numerous calls upon that of other nations. Their yarns are often made from Indian cotton; calicoes from English yarn; and cloth which is printed or finished in China is frequently English long cloth.

It has been a question whether the cloth of Chinese manufacture, known as "Nankin" in Europe, owed its peculiar shade of color to the chemical process of dyeing. It is ascertained that the article is made from cotton, which has naturally the yellow tint of Nankin, and which remains unchanged after the processes of spinning and weacing. It is found on the banks of the Yag-tze-Liang, in the neighborhood of Nankin, and on the bansk of the grand canal. Its color is attributed by many to the presence of oxide of iron in the soil where it grows; this will explain, if true, why, when these cotton plants are transplanted to another locality, they degenerate and produce white cotton. There are also cotton plants in the province of the Philippines which produce cotton of a red shade of color, and which also bear white cotton if transplanted to another soil. These plants, it is said, if retransplanted to their originl soil, will again yield red cotton.

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