These exquisite artworks are carved from natural stones. The colored stones exist only in Shoushan village, in southeastern China's Fuzhou, therefore they are called "Shoushan stone".
One thousand five hundred years ago, Shoushan stone was used for carving and subsequently served as a tribute. Shoushan stone is also one of the traditional Chinese "four seal stones". Many emperors employed Shoushan stone to produce the royal seal. These rocks formed from the earth’s movement more than 100 million years to 200 million years ago. The mining is difficult, and thus the stone is very rare. After years of mining, more than 100 varieties of Shoushan stone have been found, among which Tianhuang is the most precious type. People have sayings such as, "Gold is easy to get while Tianhuang difficult", "50 grams of Tianhuang equals 150 grams of gold".
Shoushan stone carving features fantastic craftsmanship, being a combination of natural beauty and artistic wisdom. It is seemingly a wonderful flower in the garden of Chinese arts and crafts. After thousands of years of innovation, Shoushan stone carving blends Chinese painting and various carving techniques of folk arts and crafts. It integrates traditional poetry, calligraphy and painting, creating many fine masterpieces. The works of Shoushan stone have extensive subject matters, such as people, animals, landscapes, birds and flowers. For these reasons, the social impact of Shoushan stone carving is very wide. Both ancient emperors and modern people can have close contact with it, putting it in a prominent position of the traditional Chinese jade culture.
Shoushan stone carving takes good advantage of its natural multiple colors, making this a major feature. In its place of origin in Fujian province, there are many artists working on Shoushan stone carvings, many of whom are masters and teachers. The 80-year-old master Feng Jiuhe is one of them. He was invited overseas for exhibitions and performances many times. His works gained various awards and were collected by quite a few institutions, including the National Art Museum of China. His works were also selected for the cover of the "Chinese Arts and Crafts" album, and then was printed onto the stamp “Shoushan Stone Carving” and issued.
Interview: Feng Jiuhe, Chinese Master of Arts and Crafts
I have been working on Shoushan stone carvings for 65 years. Usually it takes me more than half a year for a large-scale work and one or two months for a small one. Shoushan stone carving is created out of the natural color of stones. Since each stone is different, this art is difficult. Therefore, in this field, there are very few successful people. Learning this skill calls for some talent, interest, and hard work. I, at such an age, still feel that I should keep learning as long as I’m working on it. Now I’m still working and learning.
Feng has his own view of how to use natural color. After decades of effort, he created works on fruits, pig groups, birds and other works. There are many pioneering breakthroughs in terms of subject matter, style and techniques, leading to the far-reaching development of Shoushan stone carving art.
Interview: Wu Jingjian, apprentice
The curator of the National Art Museum of China Fan Di'an once visited this old master. Upon seeing the pig group work, Fan said, "Qi Baishi’s shrimp, Huang Zhou's donkey, Feng Jiuhe’s pig, all have reached a very high height in art."
As the oldest national intangible cultural heritage inheritors of Shoushan stone carving, Feng’s grandson started learning Shoushan stone carving at a very young age.
Interview: Feng Wei, grandson
I started learning from Grandpa at 16, when I was in high school. My interest in this art pushes me to learn this art while going to school. My parents are also engaged in Shoushan stone carving. At an early age, I was living in an environment where my grandpa, dad and mom were doing this art. Usually I was sitting beside my grandpa, playing with a stone in my hand. My grandpa drew something on the stone and asked me to carve it myself. To date, I’ve been learning this art for almost 20 years.
At the very beginning, I found this art boring. When seeing other children playing, I asked myself: why should I sit here working so hard? But when I went out playing, I felt bored, and found carving stone at home is more fun. I could find what I want when carving stone thus find my own fun.
Grandpa usually has the habit of getting up early, for he feels full of vigor in the morning. I live with my grandpa. When he gets up about 5, I follow him. Then I listen to my grandfather talk about how to deal with this stone, how to design, how to organize an idea, and about carving techniques. Basically every morning after I get up, I finish washing at 6 and begin to study with Grandfather. After finishing breakfast about 7, I work until 12; after lunch and some rest, I work from 1 to 5, then I have dinner and watch TV news. I continue at 7. Sometimes Grandpa would teach me at night to paint.
Grandpa said, spending only eight hours a day is absolutely not enough for the Shoushan stone carving art. Time outside of the eight hours should be utilized in order to learn more things. As a child, I thought this was very hard. But in retrospect, I would like to thank my grandfather. His being so strict on me led to my current accomplishment, so I cherish that period.
My ideal is to carry forward the craftsmanship of Grandfather and pass it down.