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Bamboo carving

Bamboo carving

Jiading bamboo carving is popular in Jiading, Shanghai. Jiading is located in the northwest of Shanghai. It is abundant with bamboo resources. The school of Jiading bamboo carving was developed by Zhu He (1506 - 1566), and was well-liked throughout Jiading.

Zhu he integrated writing, painting as well as script into bamboo carvings and invented a carving technique with transparent and deep relief which makes bamboo carving an independent art form. The earliest creator Zhu He, together with his son, Zhu Ying and grandson, Zhu Zhizheng, created and developed Jiading style bamboo carving. Zhu Ying, inherited his father's cause, and invented new ways of cutting, and Zhu Zhizheng had exceeded his father and grandfather, his works were noted for simplicity, elegance and elaboration. The three generations set basic styles for Jiading bamboo carving. After, Li Liufang, and LouJian learned deep relief of Zhu in their free time to enhance their skills. During the reign of emperor Kangxi in the Qing dynasty, Wu Zhi invented a carving skill of characters cut in relief which was called extremely skillful by people. There were three brothers, Feng Xilu, Feng Xijue, and Feng Xizhang good at round sculpting and carving characters, their works are vivid and lively, brought the Jiading bamboo carving into its peak. Until the reign of Emperor Qianlong, there were many schools dedicated to teaching bamboo carving, lead by Zhou Hao. With all the advantages of artisans, Zhou Hao used the knife as a brush, created many works of art contributing to his reputation as an artist. With Zhou Hao, Zhou Li and Zhang Tianshi they were called the three artisans of Jiading. Jiading bamboo carvings began entering the imperial court in the early Qing dynasty, emperor Kangxi not only collected these works but also invited the artisans to the palace including Feng Xilu, Feng Xizhang and Shi Tianzhang. Emperor Qianlong wrote his poem in the pen container and asked the artisans to carve. In the late Qing dynasty, there were many bamboo carving shops concentrated in the Jiading city, however, it was declining. After 1949, bamboo carving regained attention, some professional organizations and research institution were established. Jiading bamboo carving traditionally passed down by family and shifu, all schools all have their successors. Today, inheritors of this technique are Fan Xunyuan, Zhang Yingyao, Fan Jichang and many others.

The Jiajing people take knives as brush, integrating the script, painting, poem, writing and stamp into one body and endue the bamboos new life. With scholar’s style and taste, bamboo carving is loved by the governors and scholars. The works include bamboo tubes, pen containers, perfume tubes, arm rests and table ornaments as well as figurines, landscapes, flowers and animals carved from bamboo roots. The basic techniques are shallow carving, deep carving, fretwork, and round sculpting. These carvings have a distinctive regional flavor and tangible originality.

Jiading bamboo carving is a manual operated, complicated and time-consuming business. It is hard to form a scale production, thus, artisans change their jobs. What is worse is no painter from academy of fine arts would like to do the bamboo carving, painters and bamboo carving artisans do not communicate with each other which makes the importance of the Jiading bamboo decline. On the other hand, with rapid urbanization, forests disappearing causing a lack of raw materials for bamboo carving place the skill in danger of extinction.