Hua Sui (Traditional Chinese: 華燧; Simplified Chinese:华燧; Hanyu
Pinyin: Huá Suì) (1439-1513 AD) was a Chinese scholar and printer of
Jiangsu province during the
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). He
belonged to the wealthy Hua family that was renowned throughout the
Hua Sui is best known for creating China's first metal movable
type printing in 1490 AD.
Metal movable type printing had been
Korea during the earlier 13th century,a[›] but there is
no concrete evidence that suggests Hua Sui's metal type print was
influenced by Korean printing.
Metal movable type printing
1.1 Earlier wooden and ceramic types
Metal type of the Ming period
1.3 The Qing period
2 Process and methods
3 See also
Metal movable type printing
Earlier wooden and ceramic types
The Chinese Diamond Sutra, the oldest known printed book in world
history (868 AD), using woodblock printing.
Movable type was invented and improved in
China centuries before Hua
Sui. As written by the polymath Chinese scientist Shen Kuo
(1031–1095) of the
Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), the commoner and
Bi Sheng (990-1051) was the first to invent movable type, with
his ceramic type invented in the Qing-li reign period
(1041–1048). During the
Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 AD), the
governmental magistrate and scholar Wang Zhen (fl. 1290-1333) was an
early innovator of wooden movable type, as his process improved the
speed of typesetting as well. Much like
Bi Sheng experimenting with
wooden movable type in the 11th century but finding it unsatisfactory,
Wang Zhen also experimented with metal type printing using tin.
Wang Zhen wrote in the book of the Nong Shu (1313 AD):
In more recent times [late 13th century], type has also been made of
tin by casting. It is strung on an iron wire, and thus made fast in
the columns of the form, in order to print books with it. But none of
this type took ink readily, and it made untidy printing in most cases.
For that reason they were not used long.
Thus, Chinese metal type of the 13th century using tin was
unsuccessful because it was incompatible with the inking process.
Although unsuccessful in Wang Zhen's time, the bronze metal type of
Hua Sui in the late 15th century would be used for centuries in China,
up until the late 19th century. Furthermore, a font of tin movable
type was successfully employed by a Mr. Tong of
Guangdong in the 19th
century, who figured out how to make it more compatible with the
Metal type of the Ming period
Jiaozi (currency), 11th century paper-printed money from the Song
Hua Sui, who did not become a scholar until about the age of fifty,
became interested in printing books. He had accumulated a sizable
fortune, and desired to use that fortune in order to establish the
reputation as a printer in the region.
Hua Sui became the first of
his familial clan to use his resources in establishing bronze-type
printing in 1490. The first book printed in bronze-type in
the Zhu Chen Zou Yi of that year (housed now in the National Central
Library of Taipei, Taiwan), a simple collection of memorials printed
in two editions. The books printed by
Hua Sui contain the signature
Hui Tong Guan (Studio of Mastery and Comprehension), meaning he had
mastered the process of metal movable type printing. Including the
Zhu Chen Zou Yi, published 15 titles using metal type, in a span of
about 20 years.
Family relatives of
Hua Sui caught on and engaged in metal type
printing as well. Hua Cheng (1438-1514 AD), a distant relative of Sui,
an antiquarian, and book-collector, began his own printing studio
known as Shang Gu Zhai (Studio for Esteeming Antiquities). He
printed the Bai Chuan Xue Hai of 1501 using metal type, and printed
many rare books he obtained in a rapid process thanks to the speed of
metal typesetting. Hua Qian (fl. 1513-1516), a nephew of Hua Sui,
was yet another bronze-type printer of the Hua family. His studio
signature was Lan Xue Tang (Hall of Orchid and Snow), and his largest
printing project was reprinting the old
Tang Dynasty encyclopedia of
the Yi Wen Lei Ju (1515). In addition, various members of the Hua
family contributed to metal movable type printing, as about 24 book
titles using metal type were published between 1490 and 1516.
There was another prestigious family of Wuxi,
Jiangsu province, who
engaged in metal type printing. This was the An family, most notably
that of An Guo (1481–1534). However, the An family's printed
works came shortly after the Hua family, the latter of whom were
supposedly inspired by Shen Kuo's description of Bi Sheng's movable
type in the Meng Xi Bi Tan (Dream Pool Essays) of 1088 AD. Yet the
process of earthenware movable type and metal movable type are
different, as metal movable type required many more complex technical
processes of engraving, casting, type-setting, inking, and
The Bencao on traditional Chinese medicine; printed with woodblock in
1249, Song Dynasty
Bronze type publications were soon after made in the cities of
Changzhou, Suzhou, and
Nanjing during the 16th century. Yet the
sponsors of printing weren't all described as the works of simply the
area's wealthiest local family, as the bronze-type books in Fujian
province were developed by truly commercial enterprises. Chinese
writing fonts of different sizes and scope could be jointly owned and
invested in by more than one printer in the region.
In addition to bronze, there were also other metal types used for
movable type printing. Lu Shen (1477-1544 AD) once reported in the
early 16th century that printers of
Changzhou used bronze and lead
movable type printing, which could have been separate materials or an
alloy mixture of the two.
The Qing period
Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), the imperial court had made
wooden movable type the official printing method, overseen by the
official Jin Jian (d. 1794) who had 253,000 wooden movable type font
characters made in 1733. However, the Qing government also
sponsored bronze-type printing, as they crafted 250,000 bronze
characters earlier in 1725 to print the Gujin Tushu Jicheng
(古今圖書集成, Complete Collection of Illustrations and Writings
from the Earliest to Current Times). The encyclopedia encompassed
5020 volumes in length, as sixty six copies of the encyclopedia were
made. Although the bronze characters were kept safe and deposited
in the Wuying Palace, they were all melted down in 1744 in order to
forge coin currency.
Beyond the imperial court, there were many small private industries
and individual sponsors of printing during the Qing period.
Changshu was known to have printed a large literary
collection of his in 1686 AD. The Manchu military officer
Wu-Long-A printed a collection of imperial edicts while stationed in
Taiwan in the year 1807. The Chinese character font of some
400,000 bronze characters made by Lin Chun Qi took twenty one years to
make, from 1825 until 1846. The total cost for the endeavor was
200,000 silver teals. These characters were used to print a variety
of different books, including treatises on phonology, medicine, and
military strategy, and it is possible his same character font was used
by the later Wu Chongjun of Hangzhou when he printed two other works
Process and methods
A revolving table typecase with individual movable type characters
arranged primarily by rhyming scheme, from Wang Zhen's book of
agriculture, published 1313 CE.
For creating movable type font characters, the Chinese employed both
methods of either casting moulds or individually engraving
characters. Casting was favored over the long and laborious
process of cutting individual characters of bronze, which may have
been a simple task with the material of wood, but not as economically
feasible with metal that could be simply cast instead. However,
for traditional Chinese metal movable type printing, some records of
the 18th century indicate that individual engraving and cutting was
used as well. While creating new books using movable type, ink was
applied to a plate and rubbed with paper as seen in woodblock
printing. Then there was the process of assembling and setting the
type, and ultimately distributing it, which necessitated at least a
small level of division of labor. In fact, there are books printed
in the Ming and Qing periods that designated the lists of workers who
contributed to the printing, publication, and distribution of the
books themselves. The bronze-type edition of the Song Dynasty
encyclopedia Tai Ping Yu Lan printed in 1547 AD, in the city of
Jianyang, described how two persons were responsible for typesetting
while two others were in charge of the actual printing. For books
that do not indicate in the initial pages whether they were printed
using movable type instead of woodblock printing, there are definite
signs that can be examined to deduce which method was used. Misprints,
misalignment of characters, and uneven spacing are the distinct mark
of many movable type editions from the time of Hua Sui. However,
as time progressed and the works of printers such as Hua Jian, An Guo,
and others were made, steps were made to perfect the process and thus
making it harder to differentiate between woodblock printing editions
and movable type editions (unless noted in the text).
History of western typography
List of Chinese inventions
Technology of the Song Dynasty
^ a: See the article History of typography in East Asia.
^ a b Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 215.
^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 201.
^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 206-208.
^ a b c d e f g Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 217.
^ a b Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 216-217.
^ a b c d e Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 212.
^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 212-213.
^ a b c d e f g h Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 213.
^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 209.
^ a b c d Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 216.
^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 217-219.
^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 218-219
^ a b c d e Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 219.
^ a b Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 220
Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5,
Part 1. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd.
Ming dynasty scholars