Feb 26, 2019
Suzhou wood sculptures roughly cover five types: The first is ornaments such as small screens or small desks. The second is accessories such as the bases for bronze ware like bells and cauldrons or for rare stones for artistic appreciation. The third is pendants like lanterns and bird cages. The fourth is utensils like plates, boxes and cases. The fifth is small wood carving pieces like human figures, flowers, birds, auspicious beasts, chariots and boats. These are things that can be handled for artis- tic appreciation. These wood carving artifacts all show great elaboration and workmanship. Some are enhanced by techniques of carving, and filigree coiling and embedding.
The development of wood sculpture accompanied that of architecture and furniture, finally becoming an independent art genre. Jiang Chunbo (江春波) was famous for his inkslab bases and brush racks out of wood. Bao Tiancheng (鲍天成) carved seal boxs, incense boxs and fan pendants out of red sandalwood. In the 15th year (1810) of the Jiaqing (嘉庆) reign period of the Qing Dynasty, a “carpenter master guild hall” was erected in Suzhou, where master carpenters could meet. During the Daoguang (道光) reign period (1820-1850) of the same dynasty there were 67 wood carving workshops in Suzhou, each having its own specialty; for example, Zhu Jishou (朱吉寿), Lu Kailun (陆开伦) and Fan Hongfu (潘洪富) specialized in large and small toilet mirrors and docu- ment cases. Qiang Laohu (强老虎), Xu Asi (徐阿四), Chen Anyu (陈安玉) and Zou Yixing (邹义兴) specialized in glass lamp racks and hanging mirrors. In the period of the Republic of China (1911-1949) there were over 40 such workshops in Suzhou concentrated in the region around Fanzhuang Front, Wangtianjing Lane and Jingde Road inside the city. Among these, the Liu Wanxing (刘万兴)’s workshop, the largest one, had over 40 workers. Rosewood and marble table mirrors they pro- duced won awards at the Second Goods Exhibition of Jiangsu Province. In 1937 a rosewood boat they produced drew great attention at the International Exposition in Paris, France. After the liberation of China in 1949 a rosewood carving factory was established in Suzhou. In 1962 the factory participated in the Suzhou Arts and Crafts Exhibition held in Beijing with 238 exhibits.
In 1982 Xie Yaoxi (谢耀锡), a veteran craftsman, made a rose- wood “Camel Load” (This was a kind of load carried by peddlers selling sugared porridge, osmanthus sweet dumplings, and small snacks because it looks like the two humps of a camel.). Its size was only 1/100 of the real load, but it contains pots, ovens, plates and cabinets and other common items all in miniature. All the drawers can be opened. There are soup bowls smaller than the nail of the little finger and small spoons that can only hold two or three seeds. It is made of over 200 redwood scraps with a total weight of 1.35 kg. Lu Hansheng (陆涵生), a Chinese art and craft master, created many masterpieces in his lifetime. His boxwood carving titled “Five Dragons Playing with Jade Rings” shows an ingenious, vivid and interesting artistic concept, and rich sense of melody and rhythm. “Redwood- lotus-topped boxwood root table,” another artwork of his, has a lotus leaf surface carved with redwood that shows clear veins and freely upturning edges. The twisted and gnarled root carved with boxwood looks natural and is full of artistic beauty. Zhao Fengyun (赵凤云)’s boxwood sculptures “Tiger Hill” and “Squirrel and Grapes” and red sandalwood sculptures “Nine Dragons Playing in the Sea” and “Hundred Monkeys Playing with Peaches” show an ingenious artistic concept, vivid modeling and amazing skill. Among the new generation of craftsmen, Chen Zhonglin (陈忠林) has made an indepth study of traditional Chinese sculpture. He is good at imitating color-painted wood sculptures of the Song Dynasty. These works faithfully represent the original works in terms of form, color, pattern and antique effect, and show striking resemblances. His antique imitation color-painted wood sculpture “Bronze Terra-Cotta Warriors of the Qin Imperial Mausoleum” is in the collection of the China National Arts and Crafts Museum. Zhong Jinde (钟锦德), born in Xiangshan, known as “sculpture town,” developed masterful wood carving skills under the influence of his hometown from his childhood. His red sandalwood “Autumn Taste of Lotus Leaves” and “Six Children and the Buddha” won gold awards at the China Folk Arts Exhibition. In addition, a large group of skillful craftsmen like Yin Shuping (殷淑萍), Li Xingrong (李兴荣), Wu Liannan (吴连男), Zhou Lingying (周玲英) and Chen Lian (陈廉) have created a great variety of ingenious artworks. Their artistic creations make Suzhou, the land of wood sculpture, a flourishing and blooming world of art.
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.