A thread of culture knits the past to the present

By Yang Feiyue | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-08 08:05
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Artisan Hao Ruxiang demonstrates the making of lotus flowers, using the buhu (cloth-pasted) painting craft, in Baoding, Hebei province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Originating from folk customs, tradition that stretches back hundreds of years gets a fresh lease of life, Yang Feiyue reports. 

Flowers and birds bursting with color, vivid human figures and dramatic landscapes seem to jump out of the picture frames hanging on the walls of artisan Hao Ruxiang's workshop.

From a distance, these exquisitely beautiful pictures appear to be fine paintings. Yet, up close, they resemble sculptural art, with rich layers and a three-dimensional feel.

The viewer can sometimes have a hard time reconciling the fact that they are actually crafted using fabrics, such as silk, skillfully pasted and layered together.

It is buhu (cloth-pasted) painting, which was named a national intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2014.

"It originated from the traditional folk art of the Manchu ethnic people, who would use needle and thread to create patterns as a means to mend boots, hats and clothing for practical and aesthetic purposes," says Hao from the Fengning Manchu autonomous county, Chengde, North China's Hebei province.

The art boasts a history of more than 300 years and is enjoying a new lease of life as Teng Teng, Hao's grandfather-in-law, made some groundbreaking innovations to the craft.

"He went from bu (mending) to hu (pasting), making the blossoms pop up from the surface," Hao explains.

Through decades of endeavor, Teng and his family have helped buhu painting to evolve, integrating the essence of numerous traditional crafts, ranging from painting, relief, embroidery, thangka, needlework, silhouette, paper-cutting, mounting, fabric collage and cloisonne.

Additionally, more than 100 materials have now been applied to add to the diverse expressions of the art.

"For example, we have meticulously pasted gold threads along the edges of flowers to create a better visual effect, which was originally inspired by my grandfather-in-law's application of cloisonne," Hao explains, adding that many techniques used to create the art are derived from practice.

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