Bamboo carving museum celebrates ancient art form 2008-01-05 13:23:43   Print

    BEIJING, Jan. 5 -- Revitalized Jiading Villa precinct displays a full range of Chinese cultural heritage.

    China's first Bamboo Carving Museum was opened last week in Shanghai's northwest Jiading District to give life to an art form in danger of extinction.

    Situated in the tranquil Jiading Villa of Zhouqiao town, the 500-square-meter exhibition hall houses 120 masterpieces collected from Shanghai Museum, Museum of Qingpu District and individual collectors.

    The new museum is located in the recently renovated fusion-style Jiading Villa, a property built in 1942 by Jiang Shucai, a merchant from Jiangsu Province.

    The 0.67 hectare property combines both ancient Chinese and Western architectural styles with a central lily pond, a pavilion and a stone bridge.

    It has a rich cultural heritage in its own right with well-preserved historical sights, old residential houses and elegant water views around the museum.

    A seven-floor Fahua Pagoda and the largest Confucius Temple south of the Yangtze River are particularly impressive. Built in 1219, the temple is neighbors with an imperial examination museum and Huilongtan Park, which literally translates to "the pond where dragons gather together." Built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the park is 4.67 hectares with kiosks and terraces lining the lakeshore along with hills that are stepped in an exotic stone design.

    The delicate art works in the bamboo carving museum date back to the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the heyday of traditional Chinese bamboo carving.

    The museum provides a journey through both bamboo culture and Chinese culture.

    Some of the exhibits demonstrate the highest level of Chinese bamboo carving while others are small and delicate, intricately wrought by China's master craftsmen of the time.

    Bamboo carving artists will be on site in the museum to demonstrate their techniques and visitors will have a chance to do their own carving.


    The district has long been closely connected with bamboo carving culture as one of the two original areas in China that once proliferated with bamboo.

    Four hundred years ago, the bamboo carving art was flourishing in Jiading, a heritage that stretches between the late 16th century and early 20th century.

    Another center is in Jinling, Zhejiang Province.

    Zhu Songling, a famous painter, writer and calligrapher from the era, developed the carving art form and passed it on to his son Zhu Xiaosong and grandson Zhu Sansong.

    The most popular and traditional ancient patterns for bamboo carving were lotus flowers, trees, animals and Buddha figures, plus Chinese characters.

    The works of one of China's greatest bamboo carving masters, Zhu Sansong, are displayed in the museum.

    The outstanding exhibit is a brush pot which vividly depicts a story from "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms," showing expressions on the faces of people standing and sitting under the shadow of a big tree, chatting with each other.

    The bamboo carving art works on display are widely different in form, including deep relief, low relief, transparent relief and full relief, techniques similar to wood carving.

    Jiading native Wang Wei was the most famous carving master in the 1980s, training four apprentices and setting up a workshop. But bamboo carving is a time-consuming art and yields low profits.

    With the art form facing extinction, bamboo carving was listed last year as a city-level Cultural Intangible Heritage, so more resources could be applied to protect artifacts and educate people about the craft. Jiading District also set up a bamboo carving association.

    The initiative is paying dividends with evidence that bamboo carving in Jiading is gaining a nationwide reputation.

    "It's the first time I've seen such a great variety of bamboo carving art works in Shanghai," said local visitor Yang Lin.

    (Source: Shanghai Daily)

Editor: An Lu
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