Woodcarving in China constitutes three major categories: architecture carving, furniture carving and artworks carving. Woodcarving as handiworks for display or fondling started from the Song Dynasty when the practice of fondling artworks gradually rose among men of letters and refined scholars. This prevailing custom reached its climax in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Furnishing artworks are a traditional category in wood carving, which are placed on cabinets, windowsills, tables, shelves, etc. Wood carving can also be used to decorate all sorts of furniture and other artworks such as jade-ware, cloisonné and chinaware.
Woodcarving can be seen all over the region on both sides of the Yangtze River where the best known includes the Dongyang woodcarving in Guangdong Province, the golden-lacquer woodcarving in Zhejiang Province, longan woodcarving in Fujian Province and Huizhou woodcarving in Anhui Province.
Dongyang County of Zhejiang Province has always been celebrated for being the “home of carving.” Dongyang woodcarving started from the Tang Dynasty, developed in the Song Dynasty and became popular in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Dongyang carvings preserve the original textures and colors of the wood which, when meticulously polished, make the finished works appear smooth and lustrous. Relief carving is the essence of Dongyang woodcarving in which the depth of the patterns ranges between two and five millimeters. The centerpiece is focused on by the force of the cutting. The designs of Dongyang woodcarving lays stress on “carving all over the background,” which means to have patterns carved over the entire surface of the object so that it has three dimensional display while the background is fully covered. That is a unique artistic style.