Archive

Archive for the ‘History and Background of Arts and Crafts’ Category

Arts and Crafts during the Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties

July 9th, 2009 No comments
White pottery- dou (hollow container) from the Shang Dynasty, a treasure with exquisite patterns of thunder clouds, elegant in style and dignified in shape

White pottery- dou (hollow container) from the Shang Dynasty, a treasure with exquisite patterns of thunder clouds, elegant in style and dignified in shape

Starting from the Xia, the Shang and the West Zhou, China began the replacement of dynasties one after another. Both the Xia and the Shang had official post specially set up to manage handicrafts under the direct control of royal families and nobles. The sacrificial vessels, sacrificial utensils, weapons and valuable articles for daily use needed by the rulers were all fabricated by the handicrafts under the control of officials. Most of the craftsman in the Shang Dynasty belonged to the respective clan engaged in a special kind of handicraft from generation to generation but a small part of them were slaves transformed from prisoners of war.

Bronze ware was an important handicraft variety in the Shang Dynasty. The brone ware of the Shang Dynasty had almost all categories with various shapes. For decorative designs, they were of central symmetry of single line patterns, mysterious and solemn. Due to the tendency of drinking prevailing among the ruling class of the Shang Dynasty, the making of drinking vessels was highly developed. As the cost was very high, the bronze ware could only be used by rulers. For the broad masses of slaves, earthenware was still taken as principal articles for their daily necessities. As a result, the pottery-making technique of the Shang Dynasty was also universally developed. There were three kinds of technique to make pottery: wheel, mold and their combination. There was also an internal division of labor for the pottery-making technique and different kilns fired different potteries. China is the first nation in the world to breed silkworms, weave silk fabrics and use lacquer. In the Shang Dynasty, wild silkworms had already been domesticated. The coating of lacquer can prevent wooden articles from rotting and be used for decoration as well. So far as decoration was concerned, the handicraft in the Shang Dynasty was full of strong religious color and its religious significance was more important than aesthetic consciousness.
Read more…

Arts and Crafts during the Song, Liao, Jin and Yuan Dynasties

July 13th, 2006 No comments
A porcelain pillow from the Dingyao Kiln of the Song Dynasty, a piece of rare ancient porcelain exquisitely made in the shape of a vivacious kid.

A porcelain pillow from the Dingyao Kiln of the Song Dynasty, a piece of rare ancient porcelain exquisitely made in the shape of a vivacious kid.

As the handicraft level of the Song Dynasty was rather high, obvious development was made in various aspects, such as the development of varieties, the scale of production, the technology of handicrafts, the management and trading. The administrative setups of government-run handicrafts were more unwieldy and the division of labor was more elaborate than the Tang Dynasty. Most of the artisans of the government-run handicraft were recruited and had personal freedom to a certain extent while the management of the folk handicraft workshop was even more flexible and open. The commerce of the Song Dynasty was well developed, the urban economy became brisk day by day and handicrafts became commodity production universally. In Bianliang (the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty in the present Kaifeng, Henan) and Lin’an (the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty in the present Hangzhou, Zhejiang) shops and stores stood in great numbers, gathering together almost all articles of daily use, and urban handicrafts were very flourishing, The scroll of the Qingming Shanghe Tu (Pure Brightness Day on the River) drawn by Zhang Zeduan(1085-1145) of the Northern Song Dynasty showed the busy commercial activities in Bianliang city in a lively and visual representation. There was regular country fair on the outskirts of bi cities like Chang’an, Luoyang, Fuzhou, Quanzhou, Yangzhou and Chengdu. Gradually the rural fairs developed into marked towns.

The Song Dynasty deserved the title of the “Porcelain Age” as porcelain was the most outstading of all its handicrafts. Famous kilns were scattered from north to south. The Dingyao Kiln, Ruyao Kiln, Guanyao Kiln, Geyao Kiln an Junyao Kiln were known as the five famous kilns of the Song Dynasty. They created ceramic varieties with their respective characteristics, such as the white porcelain of the Dingyao Kiln, the celadon of the Ruyao Kiln, the light greenish blue porcelain of the Guanyao Kiln, the crackle porcelain of the Geyao Kiln, the transmutation porcelain of the Junyao Kiln and the shadowy blue porcelain of the Jingdezhengyao Kiln. In addition, the simple and straightforward porcelain fired by folk kilns like the Cizhouyao Kiln in the north and the Jizhouyao Kiln in the south was verypopular among the people. The ceramic technology of the Song Dynasty achieved unprecedented prosperity by incorporation the great achievements of the successive dynasties. The dyeing and weaving technology of the Song Dynasty was also greatly developed. The varieties of silk weaving were plentiful and the center of silk weaving was in the regions south of the Yangtze River. For the production of lacquer ware, not only did the government have special administrative setups, the fabrication among folk people was also so common that local centers were formed. For the jade carving technique, as the “qiao se” (coincidental natural colors) on the jade was given full play to, gigantic achievements were obtained.
Read more…

Lu Ban, a carpenter consecrated by artisans of all crafts

July 21st, 2005 No comments

LubanLu Ban, also as known as Gongshu Ban, was a renowned carpenter of the Lu State during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. The social changes made artisans gain some freedom and the wide use of ironware provided favorable conditions for the development of handicraft technology. In the respect of tool innovation and workmanship, Lu Ban found his own way to distinction ancient books recorded his deeds in tool innovation and fabrication of various kinds of utensils for daily use, such as the yinkuo (an appliance used for straightening out lumber) and shovel.

Lu Ban was originally a carpenter but it had already been said in the ancient times of China that he was also engaged in other workmanships, such as coppersmith, stonemason, etc. According to the legend circulated in the Han Dynasty, Lu Ban was said to carve and paint the crossbeams of the palace in Luoyang and build a bridge in the vicinity of Chang’an. Afterwards, this kind of legend increased day by day at various places and people took not too much notice whether there legends were in conformity with Gongshu Ban’s history during the Warring States Period but instead they took Lu Ban as an ideal character of skilled artisan. For uplifting the notability of their respective trade, many trades such as carpenter, bricklayer, stonemason, shipbuilder, vehicle fabricator, etc. all consecrated Lu Ban as the founder of their respective trade. As a result, the phenomenon “artisans of all crafts consecrate Lu Ban” occurred.

Arts and Crafts during the Ming and Qing Dynasties

July 13th, 2005 No comments
Round-backed armchair from the Ming Dynasty, well-proportioned in scale and lofty in shape.

Round-backed armchair from the Ming Dynasty, well-proportioned in scale and lofty in shape.

The artisan system of the Ming Dynasty inherited the hereditary system of the Yuan Dynasty. Artisans had more personal freedom. During the non-service period, they had the freedom to be freely engaged in handicraft profession, which promoted the development of handicrafts.

The handicrafts of the Ming Dynasty achieved obvious development in both technology and art and many handicraft varieties formed their respective famous centers of production. Jingdezhen was the nationwide pottery-making center. During different periods there were different technological characteristics and various kinds of utensils, such as the Yashou Bei (a kind of cup) during the Yongle period (1403-1424), the celadon during the Xuande period (1426-1435), the colored celadon and the Ji Gang Bei (another kind of cup) during the period

Gold crown from the Ming Dynasty, 24 cm high, woven with extremely thin gold filament, having two dragons vying with each other for a pearl on the top. It is one of the masterpieces of gold and silver handicrafts of Ming Dynasty.

Gold crown from the Ming Dynasty, 24 cm high, woven with extremely thin gold filament, having two dragons vying with each other for a pearl on the top. It is one of the masterpieces of gold and silver handicrafts of Ming Dynasty.

of Chenghua (1465-1487), the monocolored glaze during the period of Zhengde (1506-1521), and the export-oriented porcelain during the period of Jiajing (1522-1565) and Wanli (1573-1619). The technology of dyeing and weaving in the Ming Dynasty developed by leaps and

bounds, such as the silk weaving in Suzhou and Hangzhou, the cotton weaving of Songjiang, the printing and dyeing of Wuhu, and the embroidery of the Gu School in Shanghai. The metal handicraft was featured with the Xuande Lu (a batch of small copperware cast with the copper mined in southeast Asia for meeting the demands of offering sacrifices to gods and ancestors as well as for lavendering clothes) and cloisonné (a kind of enamel with copper base and clipped copper wire). The development of garden buildings, the abundance of timer and the improvement of carpenter’s tools brought up the developed furniture handicraft of the Ming Dynasty, which was known for its simple and unsophisticated shape, perfect handicrafts and refined style. In the Ming Dynasty, numerous craftsmen came to the fore, such as Gong Chun and Shi Dabin killed in Zisha Tao (purple-clay pottery), Han Ximeng clever at the embroidery of the Gu School, Madame Ding skillful in cotton, Yang Xun accomplished in golden lacquer, Lu Zigang good at jade carving and the family of Zhu are talented at bamboo carving.
Read more…