Chaozhou wood carving spread over Chaoshan in South China's Guangdong Province and is popular in cities like Chao'an, Jieyang, Chaoyang, Puning, and Raoping, all of which were in ancient Chaozhou prefecture. Because of this, the style of carving was called Chaozhou Woodcarving. Along with Dongyang woodcarving in Zhejiang Province, it is one of the two leading schools of folk woodcarving.
Chaozhou woodcarving was developed from a rugged architecture wood carving to fine carving for articles of daily use, like hanging screens, standing screens, shrine tables, tea cabinets, and incense burning tables. Of all the articles, the woodcarving of the shrine table is the most refined.
In Chaozhou, the ridge, brim and the external wall of the houses are always decorated with brick carving or stone carving; but the wood carvings are installed on the lintels and chapiters of the doors, windows and the front corridors. As for furniture such as folding screens, tables, beds, cupboards and lampwicks all are decorated with wood carvings. In the past wood carvings were very commonly found in articles used in sacrificial ceremonies such as tabernacles and candleholders.
Choazhou woodcarving began as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and developed rapidly in the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties. It reached its peak in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). At the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China, overseas Chinese came back in floods to build many ancestral temples and magnificent houses. They used a great deal of Chaozhou wood carving in their splendid buildings. Most of the present-day wood carvings are from that period.
Local lumber is used for Chaozhou wood carving. Of course, the choice of lumber varies according to the wood carving. For example, wood carvings used in architecture are always made of fir and wood carvings used in furniture are always made of camphor.
Chaozhou wood carving is closely related to the life of the common people and their feelings and taste. Its themes usually come from mythology, legends, dramas and historical stories popular among the people. At the same time, those things such as flowers, animals and geometry patterns are also themes of Chaozhou wood carving.
It is famous for being engraved in different layers, with golden exaggerated decorations that are brilliant and exquisite.
Chaozhou wood carvers use a variety of methods including: relief carving, concave carving, circular carving, and penetrative carving. Methods for patching gold include black paint varnished in gold, five-color gold decoration and over-all patching gold.