Preserving the old in a modern urban setting

By Wang Kaihao in Shenzhen ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-05-18 07:55:39

Narrating his story, Liu Quanhui, a fifth-generation porcelain maker from Chao-zhou, in Guangdong province, who likes to call himself "an entrepreneur", says: "When I first went to Saudi Arabia for an expo in 1993, I found that Chinese porcelain, which was once considered the best in the world, was far behind our counterparts from Japan and Europe.

"That was my first time abroad, and this (ranking of Chinese porcelain) greatly shocked me. So, I decided to exert myself to take Chinese porcelain back to the top of the world.

"It's also my family's duty to preserve the skill."

So, as most porcelain-making in China at that time, which was represented by Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi province, focused on state-of-the-art techniques to draw patterns on porcelain pieces, Liu took another path.

Explaining what he did, he says: "Given that a major problem was that traditional material used to make Chinese porcelain was too rough for modern aesthetics, we needed improvements."

With that in mind, he moved to Shenzhen in 2000.

Justifying why he feels modern production methods are needed, he says: "When I visited Japan, I found artisans there very proud of their work, unlike Chinese studios, where things are often done in a very disorderly fashion.

"Attitude is also important. That's why modern enterprise management has to be introduced in traditional craftsmanship as well."

Nevertheless, despite his success, some professionals, who attended a training program held by the Beijing-based International Training Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific region under the auspices of UNESCO at the industry fair, were concerned about introducing modern manufacturing practices to improve traditional crafts.

One of those who expressed reservations was Wang Chenyang, deputy director of the intangible cultural heritage department under the Ministry of Culture.

Outlining his concerns, he says: "While development of intangible cultural heritage can create wide space for economic growth, when reviving it, one should go back to the origin and review its functionality."

Wang also pointed to the necessity of protecting the heritage from industrialization.

Despite such views, He and Liu have followed their instincts to modernize while preserving the heritage.

As He wants her paper cutouts to be accessed by more people, her company has opened DIY workshops for the public to experience them.

"Perhaps, most will treat it only as a hobby," she says. "But, even if a small group from among a growing population take paper cutouts seriously and are willing to join the industry, the craftsmanship will survive and thrive.

"Maybe, I'm not the best paper cutout artist there is, but at least I want to be its best promoter," she says.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Editor's Picks
Hot words

Most Popular