Creating an Artistic Style with Chopping and Chiseling—Zhong Jinde and His Wood-Carving Technique

Feb 27, 2019


The big-leaf rosewood sculpture “Auspices and Wealth,” created by Zhong Jinde, has 90 peonies in full blossom and 56 elegant cranes on it. To produce this artwork, which is about two meters long and one meter wide, Zhong read a score of reference materials before determining his final blueprint. This artwork features all the distinctive engraving techniques of Suzhou handicraft art, including a three- dimensioanl perspective.
Zhong Jinde, born in Guangfu town, the birthplace of Xiangshan engraving, developed a profound interest in engraving in his earliest years. In 1980, believing in the saying that “a craftsman will not starve even in a year of famine,” he studied under Li Xinggen, a craftsman of the Xiangshan School, after he graduated from senior high school, at the age of 18. At the age of 21, Zhong Jinde became the first man to make rosewood “gate lion” statues. In 2001 his rosewood carving artwork “Lantern Performance Hall” was sold for a high price to a Kunqu opera group in Taiwan. In 2009 his engraving, developed a profound interest in engraving in his earliest years. In 1980, believing in the saying that “a craftsman will not starve even in a year of famine,” he studied under Li Xinggen, a craftsman of the Xiangshan School, after he graduated from senior high school, at the age of 18. At the age of 21, Zhong Jinde became the first man to make rosewood “gate lion” statues. In 2001 his rosewood carving artwork “Lantern Performance Hall” was sold for a high price to a Kunqu opera group in Taiwan. In 2009 his son started to learn engraving from him, and later Zhong Jinde spent a year at the Department of Sculpture, Academy of Art & Design, Tsinghua University in Beijing as a visiting scholar.
“Esthetic capacity determines the quality of a design” is Zhong Jinde’s motto. During his ntime at Tsinghua University he visited almost every museum in Beijing, collecting large amounts of materials for artistic creation. There was a considerable difference between classroom learning and the traditional apprenticeship under a mentor. Students would complete basic fine arts education like sketching during their senior high school years, but Zhong Jinde had to learn and practice bit by bit from the very beginning. He experienced and savored the process of artistic creation, reflected on tradition and modernity, compared classical and popular arts, and mastered the control of esthetics.In this way he improved his artistic skills continuously.
But Zhong Jinde does not reject modernity altogether: The case for his iphone is made of carved purple sandalwood with rabbit dec- orations. “I carved it for myself, just for fun,” he said. ``There is only one of these in the whole world.”

 


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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