Tsinghua designs new artistic pieces for Year of the Tiger

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The art of engraving under the microscope

An engraved sketch by Yuan Yishan, an alumna of AADTHU, and stamps designed by artist Feng Dazhong for the Year of the Tiger. [Photo courtesy of AADTHU]

In January, China Post issued a set of unique stamps designed by artist Feng Dazhong using traditional Chinese painting. The set is printed with offset intaglio technology. The first stamp named "Guo Yun Chang Long" (meaning "national abundance and prosperity") is engraved by Yuan Yishan, who studied in the Department of Painting of AADTHU between 1998 and 2005.

According to Yuan, an engraver is responsible for transferring the original stamp image to a small steel plate for secondary creation, and the hand-engraving requires great attention and accuracy. From engraving the line sketch, making a photographic plate, transferring onto the steel plate, to finally engraving with hands, corrosion, or laser, each step is highly complex, and no error is allowed. Engravers even need to sculpt under the microscope with a special knife. Sometimes, the lines are so thin that a one-millimeter-long line comprises six shorter lines. 

Yuan said, "Our process is different from the engraving intaglio technology used to make paper money and the general copperplate etching. Our work needs to present dots and lines in a tiny space. Due to the limitations of precision and printing size, many details have to be abandoned in the creation."

While depicting the facial features of the tiger, Yuan highlights the tiger's majestic temperament and regal bearing. Its eyes are vivid, looking awe-inspiring but not too fierce. While depicting the hair, Yuan focused on the details of the face, distinguishing the length, texture, and growth direction of the tiger's beard and soft hair.

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