26 Nov. 1987|
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Boxwood carving, which has a history of about 900 years, is basically a kind of circular carving.
Concerning the origin of boxwood carving, there is a legend, which states the art form was invented by a child cowherd called Ye Chengrong, who was a local of Yueqing County. According to the story, one day the boy was playing in a temple at the end of the village, and found an old man carving a Buddha figure. The main artistic feature of boxwood carving is that all the works are made based on their original shapes, maximizing the use of the wood. Enchasing is the most delicate technique in wood carving in that it makes works exquisite, refined, graceful and dynamic. The carving process generally involves more than ten steps such as designing drafts, selecting materials, making the initial biscuits and polishing. Yueqing boxwood carving ranks alongside Dongyang wood carving and Qingtian stone carving as one of the top three carving arts of Zhejiang.
Boxwood has a creamy, yellowish color, which darkens over time, giving it an elegant and classic look. Boxwood is a slow-growing plant with a diameter of only 15 centimeters after 40 or 50 years of growth.
One day, while Ye was sculpting some Taoist figures, the Taoist in the temple found a branch of boxwood and asked him to carve a hairpin.
The tools used to shape the rough biscuit include a saw, wood hammer and steel hammer, while the tools for carving are mainly chisels such as broad, flat and groove chisels.
As a very precious and rare form of wood, Chinese little leaf boxwood usually grows in virgin forests, high mountains, or precipices. While carving the boxwood, Ye found the nature of the wood very hard, the grains very exquisite, and the color and luster outstanding. He deemed it a good raw material for woodcarving, and so began boxwood carving, a very rare and precious genre of folk art in China.
To produce boxwood carvings of good quality, each of these complicated procedures has to be done very carefully. Finding Ye very intelligent and fond of learning, he decided to take the child on as his apprentice, and taught him about circular carving, clay sculpture, dyeing, gilding (gold plating) and relief. Boxwood was the best material for small alto-relievo carving because of its toughness, smoothness, simplicity and fine grain.