Miniature Architectural Sculpture

Feb 26, 2019


Before the Qing Dynasty there was no record of small rosewood artifacts. But during the Kangxi and Qianlong reign periods (1662-1796) of the Qing Dynasty, the development of the economy and culture promoted the abandonment of old carpentry skills and the development of new ones. As a result, small rosewood artifacts started to become fashionable at the imperial court. Miniature architectural sculpture emerged in response to this situation.
It is said that, when she had the Summer Palace constructed, Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧)  in the late years of the Qing Dynasty required that the style of classical gardens in Suzhou be incorporated into the palace. The minister of works sent people to identify typical towers, pavilions, arbors and mansions in the gardens of Suzhou, ordering skillful craftsmen from Xiangshan in Suzhou to make models of them in rose- wood. These models were the predecessors of miniature architectural sculptures.
After the liberation of China in 1949 the production of miniature architectural sculpture witnessed a golden age, and developed into an emerging art genre. The government’s landscape and urban construction system particularly cultivated a group of specialized production personnel. These people created a group of miniature architectural sculptures in the southern city of Shenzhen, such as the Humble Administrator’s Garden, Frigidity Mountain Temple, Panoramic View of Tiger Hill and Famous Historical Site of Maple Bridge. The Suzhou Classical Garden Construction Company built a “Splendid China” miniature architectural sculpture park that house models of famous ancient Chinese buildings like the Palace Museum, Sun YatSen Mausoleum and the Potala Palace. Later, they built another Splendid China park in the city of Kissimmee in the State of Florida, USA. It has 54 models of famous Chinese historical sites and cultural relics such as the Great Wall. The models are in the proportion of 15:1. All of them were as- sembled with various kinds of tenons and wedges, inaccordance with the characteristics of traditional Chinese architecture, and the patterns and decorations are traditional also.
Among numerous contemporary makers of miniature architectural sculptures in Suzhou, Lu Jun (卢军) was an outstanding one. He was a descendant of Kuai Xiang. He had outstanding skills among the carpenters in Xiangshan. Under the tuition of his uncle from his childhood, Lu Jun developed his own superior skills. He was particularly interested in the pavilions, towers and mansions in the gardens of Suzhou. He would examine and measure them, and make drawings of them whenever he had time. Then he would create miniatures in the proportion of 20:1. His miniature architectural sculptures include the Pagoda of Rewarding Gratitude Temple, Frigidity Mountain Temple, Pavilion of Brightness and Ancient Stage of the Quanjin Guild Hall in Suzhou. These artworks display elaborate and precise carving work, and reveal the essence of the real edifices in miniature. They are truly precious artworks of contemporary Chinese handicraft.


About the Column

Carving Arts in Suzhou

Carving Arts in Suzhou is a book compiled by the Information Office of Suzhou Municipal People's Government and published by Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd. The good things in Suzhou are hidden and living freely in it without giving any hint of their existence. So you need to make extra efforts if you really want to get an eye-opening experience in Suzhou.

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