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Master craftsman to restore long-standing traditions

ByZHANG DANDAN and WANG XIN (China Daily) Update:2021-10-12

At a woodcarving studio founded by Jin Zisong in Chaozhou, Guangdong province, several craftsmen were busy working.

Having just returned from an exhibition organized by a crafts and arts association in Guangdong province, Jin said his team was to participate in another focused on culture and tourism in order to showcase the charm of Chaozhou woodcarving.

The tight schedule doesn't bother Jin, as he is passionate about Chaozhou woodcarving art. Among the time-honored schools of traditional Chinese woodcarving crafts, Chaozhou woodcarving features unique characteristics. It uses a technique of hollowing out the background to make the decoration stand out.

As a representative inheritor of the national intangible cultural heritage, he has earned himself a good reputation over his nearly five decades of craftwork.

Jin, a Chaozhou native, has been fond of fine arts and folk art since childhood.

In 1973, he was admitted to an arts and crafts training program in Chaozhou and worked as an apprentice in a local woodcarving workshop.

In 1984, Jin founded his own studio, which was assessed by the then Guangdong provincial department of culture as a provincial intangible cultural heritage inheritance base and a provincial production demonstration and protection base.


Jin Zisong, an inheritor of Chaozhou woodcarving. CHINA DAILY

With nearly 50 years of practice in the sector, Jin is a master of woodcarving, proficient in all kinds of carving techniques. At present, not only in Chaozhou but in cities like Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, Jin has created many woodcarvings.

Today, when visitors step into the Guangzhou Cantonese Opera Art Museum, they will be met by a masterpiece created by Jin.

Entitled Baxian Heshou, or Birthday Celebration by Eight Immortals, the woodcarving work, coated with gold foil, features a double-sided carving. Jin was invited to create it for the museum when it was about to open back in 2015.

"It (the woodcarving work) was a first attempt to integrate Chaozhou woodcarving with Cantonese opera. You can imagine how difficult it could be," Jin recalled.

On the 8-centimeter-thick camphorwood, Jin used innovative carving techniques to allow the finished work to be appreciated from both sides. It took Jin and his two associates nearly 18 months to complete.

The innovation of the double-sided hollowed-out woodcarving is one more facet for appreciation and thus has given the traditional craft greater development room, Jin said.

Later, based on the Birthday Celebration by Eight Immortals, he and one of his associates spent one year creating Qunxian Heshou, without gold foil, for display in his studio. The new creation represents a scene where more immortals congratulate a top goddess in ancient myths, called Wangmuniangniang, on her birthday.