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Arts and Crafts
2004/03/09
China is home to a wide variety of arts and crafts, such as sculpture, metal work, eaving and embroidery, folk paintings, ceramics, and lacquerware in addition to traditional folk arts such as papercuts, lanterns, kites and toys. Jadeware, ivory carving, cloisonn, embroidery and porcelain produced in China are famed the world over.

China's major jade-carving centers are in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Liaoning, Jiangsu and Xinjiang. Large pieces of jade carving often come in the form of censers, vases, figures, birds, animals and flowers. Smaller jade items include brooches, rings, cigarette holders and seals. Major ivory carving centers are in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, with each city claiming its own style. Beijing is famed for lifelike ivory carvings of human figures rendered in the round and other delicately colored articles. Guangzhou creates exquisitely hollowed-out concentric ivory balls, boats, and floral towers. Shanghai is famous for its uniquely delicate ivory portrayal of freshwater mussels and fish. The art of miniature ivory carving also thrives in Beijing and Shanghai; artisans carve landscapes or lengthy texts on tiny slips of ivory the size of a grain of rice. Their work truly seems miraculous.

Cloisonn is a kind of decorative enamelware created by artisans who mount a delicate pattern of copper strips on the surface of a metal roughcast. The areas within the strips are then filled with enamel pastes of different colors and the copper strips are soldered. Thus prepared, the cloisonn to be is fired then polished and gilded, producing a resplendent interweaving of metal and enamel. Decorative cloisonn works include plates, vases, censers and jars; functional items include table lamps, fruit dishes, candy jars, and stationery or smoking sets. Beijing is a major producer of cloisonn. Many of its products have been selected as valuable gifts to be presented to distinguished foreign guests.

Artisans produce embroidery by hand employing several dozen types of stitches to create the desired texture, color, gradation and spatial effects. China's four famous styles of embroidery are those of Suzhou, Hunan, Sichuan and Guangdong. Suzhou embroidery is famous for its cats and goldfish, Hunan embroidery for its lions and tigers, Sichuan embroidery for its carp, roosters and cockscombs and Guangdong embroidery for its warmly decorative One Hundred Birds Worshiping the Phoenix set against a panoramic backdrop of the sun, green pines, green bamboo, peonies and red plum blossoms.

Ceramics were produced in China in very ancient times. Main producers of porcelain today include Jingdezhen in Jiangxi, Liling in Hunan, Dehua in Fujian, Tangshan and Handan in Hebei, Linru and Yuxian in Henan, Longquan in Zhejiang and Zibo in Shandong. Porcelain from China's famous porcelain capital Jingdezhen is well-known both at home and abroad. It is, to quote a popular saying, "as white as jade, as bright as a mirror, as thin as paper, and as sonorous as a chime of bells." The city's eggshell, blue-and-white, famille rose and colorful-glazed porcelains are famous all over the world. Yixing in Jiangsu is known as China's pottery capital for its much-admired purplish-brown teapots made from local clay of the same color. Simple and unsophisticated in form, the fine-grained teapots have a distinctively Chinese style. Tea made in an Yixing teapot keeps its fragrance and flavor for a long time thanks to the special qualities of this purplish-brown clay; similarly, food cooked in an Yixing earthernware pot is especially delicious.


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