…the contents that sit within The Guangdong Museum treasure box? Treasures from the region of course. The region is recognized for its carving especially in wood, ivory and jade. Within the museum there were exquisite examples of these along with embroidery, painting and ceramics.
L > R Detail of Pine Tree within Chaozhou Embroidery, Late Qing Dynasty; Painted Enamel Bowl with Lid, Qing Dynasty; Top Detail of Engraved Ivory Tusk, Qing Dynasty
A highlight was the Chaozhou Woodcarving exhibition. Chaozhou Woodcarving is a folk woodcarving known for its detail, craftsmanship, and elaborate design. It has distinctive local characteristics that reflect the process, local customs, beliefs and way of life of the Chaozhou-Shantou people.
L > R Window Grill with Flowers incorporated in Geometric Design; Plank in openwork featuring pine and flowers, Qing Dynasty
Craftsman use the basic materials of wood, lacquer, pigment and foil. Woods used include camphor, chinafir, chinaberry, and rosewood. The works on display featured special techniques employed to make the screens, carvings and objects. These techniques included Intaglio, Relief, Altorelievo, and Openwork used individually or in combination. The actual carvings were setout using metric, perspectival and isometric composition techniques. Like in stone carving, Chaozhou Woodcarving uses the properties of each unique piece of wood to inform the carving technique, layering and composition type.
L > R Shrine door in openwork featuring pattern of Nine Bats delivering longevity; Detail of decorative panel in struck relief with patterns of dragons, phoenixes and The Eight Immortals on Ruyi heads background, Qing Dynasty; Complex plank work with figures and stories, The Republic of China
The artisans had beautifully captured the essential features of local nature within the wood carvings. Most memorable were the peony flower and chrysanthemum; the structure and simplicity of the pine needles; as well as the detailed scales and feathers of the mythical beasts (dragons, phoenixes etc.) The works using simpler techniques such as Intaglio (carving into surface) used only a few marks to capture discerning features.
Combinations of more complex techniques created a special space to experience within the carving. Patterned openwork for background (often including simplified and varied arrangements of clouds) used with more dimensional techniques such as altorelievo (three-dimensional carving that can be observed from any angle) gave focus, depth and completeness.
A very beautiful and inspiring traditional craft.