Editor’s Note: This article is produced in collaboration with the Chongqing Institute of Foreign Studies as part of a series of ongoing reports exploring the city’s abundant resources in intangible cultural heritages.
Fengjie woodcarving, a traditional art that was mainly handed down in Fengjie count, was more prevalent in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The main material of Fengjie wood carving is ebony, a type of carbonized wood from trees that has been buried underground for over six thousand years.
Embodying China’s thousands of years of human history and profound culture, it combined traditional craftsmanship and modern aesthetics to delicately design featured Three Gorges cultural tourism products. In 2011, Fengjie woodcarving was listed in the catalog of Chongqing Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Nowadays, as technology develops by leaps and bounds, many youngsters’ lives are glued to their phones and computers. And with the increasingly faster pace of life, students are preoccupied with extracurricular work and employees are suffering from the pressure of the 996 working hour system. Sometimes we can’t help but exclaim and come up with such a question: is anyone really willing to get down to pass on our traditional culture?
Today, science and technologies are serving as the mainstream of society, yet as one of the representatives of traditional crafts, woodcarving has been thwarted in its development. What difference does it make to still have this traditional handicraft industry alive? Will the fact that Fengjie woodcarving is known for its delicacy, originality, intricacy probably render people flinching from passing on and put it into an awkward position of “no inheritors ”?
Lin Rongguang, one of the Fengjie woodcarving inheritors has unveiled his idea.
In 2018, Lin has established a company that specializes in Fengjie woodcarving designing. Nowadays, the annual selling amount of the products accounts for over 5 million yuan. In explaining the reason for such a takeoff of his career, Lin reveals that “The terrific success is definitely bound up with Fengjie woodcarving. Not only inherit the legacy but also pass it down with innovation and commercialize it to meet the maximized profits, that’s what we intangible cultural inheritors are most expecting. The Inheritance that comes with upgrades has brought about a great dazzling variety of products adapted to modern society, and they are not only a sight for sore eyes but also able to come into handy. so I think this must be an attractive emerging combination of traditional handicrafts and modern manufacturing.”
In comparison with manufactured products by modern technology, it is obvious that more time and effort are required in the making of the woodcarving. One of Lin’s arts Li Bai embarks on the boat is enlisted in this application of intangible cultural heritage. The piece of woodcarving has cost him a total of 7 months to complete while another piece of art—Hill people have taken him 3 months. The whole hue of Hill people is tawny; along with the shape of the wood, the yards and trees are carved in an amazingly delicate way, exuding an antique atmosphere. What is remarkable is the vivid carving details of the houses in the yard with the distinctive tiles and branches, which is really devoted a lot by the carver.
What’s more, compared with carvings made with the top-notch apparatus, Fengjie woodcarving can’t be regarded as just a piece of ordinary or inane engraving only in pursuit of pomposity but a piece of art that embodies China’s cultural connotation and profound cultural tradition. It is amazing how such a small-sized piece of woodcarving serves as a miniature of Fengjie culture, Chongqing culture, and Chinese culture.
How should Fengjie woodcarving be well known and loved by more people, even more, Chinese traditional handicrafts?
New media is likely to be perceived as an important means to the handicrafts’ inheritance and development. Making the best use of the new media to achieve it, we should combine this brand-new tool with the traditional art form of Fengjie woodcarving, develop and inherit in innovation mutually for distinctive and traditional brand-building. With the development of new media, there should be a mounting number of ancient cultures that emerged in a brand new way if applied properly. There’s no doubt that new media creates more opportunities for the inheritance and development of woodcarving; the efficiency and interactivity of it enable woodcarving art to gain more understanding, popularity, and fondness.
Chinese script: Dacheng Liu
Tutored by: Hao Chen
Translation: Kexin Wang
Tutored by: Jun Jiang
Voice-over: Zikang Zhang
Tutored by: Yi Ren