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Bringing the past into the future

By XING WEN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-10 07:40
Artist Zhang Xiaodong's effort to revive China's ancient dragon-scale binding technique (pictured above) will be presented in a documentary named Blooming Crafts. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zhang Xiaodong's obsession with ancient books has urged him to revive a forgotten binding technique from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and to hand-make different kinds of paper books with exquisite workmanship.

"I loved reading in university," he recalls.

"I found that many books are subtly designed."

This enticed the 37-year-old to become a book designer after graduation.

But the market has declined in recent years with the prevalence of online readers, smartphones and tablets.

Zhang has been studying historical documents about dragon-scale bookbinding. Bookmakers must paste the edges of hundreds of pages on a long scroll at certain intervals to ensure the margins create complete pictures across the pages.

"It's marvelous," Zhang says.

"I believe this endangered art shouldn't be lost."

He spent years studying the technique, although he couldn't find many references to guide him. He succeeded in creating books using the method in 2010.

The story of dragon-scale binding and Zhang's efforts to sustain it will be featured in a TV documentary about traditional folk arts in countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Filming of the 100-episode series, Blooming Crafts, will start this month. It'll explore how craftspeople are adapting to modernization.

The first season will show crafts in such countries as Australia, Ethiopia and Turkey, and seven Chinese cities, including Beijing, Suzhou and Jingdezhen.

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