Chaozhou wood art

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"Gilded Glory: Chaozhou Woodcarving" exhibition showcases exquisite artistry, traditional lifestyle and breadth of Chinese folk culture

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 12:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 12:03am

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Currently held at the Hong Kong Museum of History, "Gilded Glory: Chaozhou Woodcarving" reveals the inspirations, artistic qualities and practical uses of Chaozhou woodcarving, while also giving the audience a taste of the life and customs of the Chaoshan people who are an integral part of the Hong Kong community.

Mostly dated from the Qing dynasty, around 120 sets of exhibits on loan from the Guangdong Museum are featured in the exhibition. Exhibits also include a large openwork gilt wooden lobster and crab cage created by the master Gu Liuxi, an inheritor of the national intangible cultural heritage of Chaozhou woodcarving. Divided into topics such as craftsmanship, application, artistic features and themes, the exhibition gives a well-rounded overview as well as detailed analysis of this delicate art.

Chaozhou woodcarving is a traditional Chinese folk handicraft with a long and distinguished history, and was popular across the Chaoshan region located in the east of Guangdong province. Together with Dongyang woodcarving, Huangyang woodcarving and Longyan woodcarving, Chaozhou woodcarving is known as one of the "Four Greatest Schools of Woodcarving in China". It was inscribed onto the first national list of intangible cultural heritage in 2006.

Known as "gilt wood", as lacquer and gold foil are often applied to give key parts or the entire work a magnificent gold finish, Chaozhou woodcarving features ingenious openwork carving techniques, telling vivid stories of historical figures such as Cao Cao of the Three Kingdoms Period and Guo Ziyi, the powerful general from the Tang dynasty. Literary classics such as Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Liaozhai) are also heavily featured in a visually powerful way.

Chaozhou woodcarving is often seen on architectural structures, ceremonial vessels, furniture and household decorations. While some works are large, ritualistic pieces, others are small decorative items. However, they share the same marvellous intricacy and richness of details. An animation, videos and interactive media are installed at the exhibition to help the audience understand the works better, and the stories behind some of the works can be obtained via QR codes for those wishing to delve deeper.

In addition to these magnificent works of art, part of the exhibition is dedicated to the colourful lifestyle and traditions of Hong Kong’s Chaoshan community, estimated to be over 1.5 million, as seen through various woodcarving works, including the Yu Lan Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community, Chaozhou opera, Chaozhou music, dietary habits, customs and religious rituals.

The governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao signed the Greater Pearl River Delta Cultural Exchange and Co-operation Development Plan 2014-2018 in 2014 to strengthen co-operation among the three places. As a result of the closer tie between cultural institutes of Guangdong and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Museum of History and Guangdong Museum launched an exhibition exchange programme this year. This exhibition is part of this initiative to bring treasures of traditional Chinese art and culture to Hong Kong.

Exhibit highlights include a gilt wooden diamond-shaped food container featuring a pigmented lacquer painting of "Wine from Wang Maosheng"; a small gilt wooden shrine featuring a biwu dingshuai (awarding marshalship through a martial arts contest) motif; a gilt wooden divine sedan chair; painted queti brackets featuring Tale of the lychee and mirror carved in relief; and a gilt wooden beam cushion featuring crab and plum blossoms in openwork. Symbolising good luck, sea creatures are a common motif in Chaozhou woodcarving due to the region’s coastal location.

"Gilded Glory: Chaozhou Woodcarving" Exhibition is jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Department of Culture and Tourism of Guangdong Province, and jointly organised by the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Guangdong Museum.

"Gilded Glory: Chaozhou Woodcarving" Exhibition

From now until February 25, 2019

Free admission

Hong Kong Museum of History

100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

Tel: (852) 2724 9042