Chinese Paper Gods

FuZiTianLai

Chinese Paper Gods is an online visual catalog of over 200 woodcuts used in folk religious practices in Beijing and other parts of China in the 1930s. The website is part of C. V. Starr East Asian Library's initiative to digitize its unique holdings and make them available online, to the benefit of scholars and other interested people who are unable to visit its collections in person.

The woodcuts represented in Chinese Paper Gods were assembled by Anne S. Goodrich (1895–2005) in 1931, when as a Christian missionary in Peking she became interested in local folk religious practices. She studied the paper gods in this collection for much of her life and, after publishing her research conclusions in 1991, donated her prints to the C. V. Starr East Asian Library.

On the website, full-color digital reproductions of the woodcut prints are organized according to their primary purpose:  first those for display, which were intended to protect the family and which were to be burned at the end of the year; then, those for ceremonial use, which were purchased to be burned immediately, with the deities serving as emissaries to heaven on behalf of the family.  The images are further categorized according to where in the house they were to be displayed and by the types of deities they represent.

The website also features informative essays about the Goodrich collection, the role of paper god prints in Chinese folk culture, and the way the images may be 'read' and understood, along with a detailed description of the conservation processes that were carried out to stabilize and preserve fragile and deteriorating prints from the collection.

The website was created by Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures in collaboration with the C. V. Starr East Asian Library and the Columbia Libraries Digital Program Division.