Readers’ Blog

At Their Fingertips

Viewed 202 times 2017-3-20 16:45 |System category:News

Yu Xianglian makes clay figurines. [Provided by Wang Qian]

 

Huishan, a town in Wuxi, a city in East China's Jiangsu Province, is renowned for its production of clay figurines. The local craftspeople use black clay, from the foot of the Huishan mountains, to make the figurines. The bright-colored figurines, which vividly depict figures and scenes based on operas and stories, embody the city's rich historical and cultural messages. In 2006, China added the figurines to the list of the country's intangible cultural heritage. 


The world-famous Huishan clay figurines, which originated in the Southern Dynasties (420-589), and which flourished during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), date back more than 1,000 years.


There are two ways to produce the clay figurines; first, there is the mold-making method, during which the artist creates the figurines, such as the God of Longevity and the God of Wealth, from clay set in molds. Second, there is the hand-kneading method, during which the artist kneads the clay into the shapes of different animals, such as the Chinese zodiac (the 12 animals, which represent the 12 Earthly Branches, to symbolize the years in which people are born) and the scenes depicted in operas and stories. 


Da'afu, or clay sculptures of a little boy and a little girl, are representative of Huishan clay figurines. Dressed in Chinese-style clothes, and holding a large lion or kylin (an auspicious legendary animal with a horn and scales) in his/her arms, each da'afu looks gentle, but powerful and dignified. For hundreds of years, the figurines have brought happiness to countless Chinese families.


The large-eared da'afu, created during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), sit upright in their seats — and they look merciful. The peonies in their hair represent wealth and rank; their Chinese-style clothes, good-fortune; the "long-life locks" on their chests, longevity; the large lions (or kylins) in their arms, the warding off of evil spirits; and the ceremonial boots on their feet, the passing of the imperial civil examinations in early youth. 


Yu Xianglian, 76, is a native of Huishan. She is a State-level inheritor of the craft. She has been creating clay figurines for more than 60 years, during which she has won many prizes for her works. Many of her works, which have been displayed in some of the world's top museums, have amazed people with their charm and unique artistic beauty.


"My grandpa ran a store, which sold clay figurines. I began helping him make the figurines when I was 8 years old," Yu recalls.


In 1955, when she was 15, Yu began studying how to make figurines under Jiang Zixian, a well-known craftsman in Huishan. Given her diligence and wisdom, she quickly honed her skills.


"Making clay figurines involves several complicated procedures, including processing the raw materials, designing the items, creating molds, and shaping, baking and painting (the items). Skilled craftsmen, most of whom are advanced in age, have few apprentices who can create the figurines independently, as one can get little pay for the arduous work," says Yu.


Luckily, however, Wuxi's municipal government has become aware of the importance of protecting the national treasure, and the government has been implementing measures to ensure the craft does not die out. For example, the government in recent years has provided courses to cultivate craftsmen/craftswomen who make Huishan clay figurines. However, many of the trainees have had to take other jobs after they learned how to make the figurines, as they have had a hard time finding work in enterprises that produce and/or sell the figurines. In fact, many of the enterprises have had a hard time surviving the fierce market competition.


Yu, who has taught some of the courses, says she is proud of some of her students, especially those who worked and studied hard. "We cultivate professional workers, who design and create the figurines. It's really a pity that many of our trainees have to take jobs irrelevant to what they have learned, to make a living," Yu has been quoted as saying.


She believes, despite all of the odds, the traditional Chinese craft will survive, even if only a handful of craftspeople strive to keep it alive.


 

Yu Xianglian makes clay figurines. [Provided by Wang Qian]

Clay figurines [Provided by Wang Qian]

Clay figurines [Provided by Wang Qian]

 

(Source: Women of China English Monthly January 2017 Issue)


http://www.womenofchina.cn/womenofchina/html1/exclusives/1703/4053-1.htm



(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


Passing

Eggs

Flowers

Shake hands

Ray
Like 0 Share
8.03K

Report

Comment (0 comments)

facelist doodle Doodle board

You need to login to comment Login | register


Women_of_China

Official English version website of the All-China Women's Federation. http://www.womenofchina.cn

Album

Recent comments

  • Village Teacher Strives to Preserve Precious Indigenous Culture 2017-4-17 00:16

    Brazil has 240 ethnicities that would need to have this beautiful cultural rescue.

  • Chinese Couple Experience Mixed Culture through Wedding Photo Shoot in NY 2017-4-13 15:32

    TRUSTED LENDER (LEXIELOANCOMPANY@YAHOO.COM)
    My name is Michael Lee a citizen of Illinois, USA. i have been scammed by 7 different Internet international lender, they all promise to give me a loan after making me pay several fees which yield nothing and amounted to no positive result. i lost my hard earn money and it was a total of 23930USD. One day as i was browsing through the internet with tears on my eye i came across a testimony of man who was also scammed and eventually got linked to a legit loan company called MARTINEZ LEXIE LOAN COMPANY where he finally got his loan, so i decided to contact the same loan company and then told them my story on how i have been scammed by 7 different lenders who did nothing but to course me more pain. I explain to the company by mail and all they told me was to cry no more because i will get my loan in their company and also i have made the right choice of contacting them. I filled the loan application form and proceeded with all that was requested of me and to my greatest surprise my loan was granted to me without further delay and here i am today happy because Martinez Lexie Loan Company HAS GIVEN ME A REASON TO LIVE, so i made a vow to my self that i will keep testifying on the internet on how i got my loan. You are to contact this GODSENT LENDER via Email: Lexieloancompany@yahoo.com  OR  Text  +18168926958

Star blogger

Anming

4124

views

Maierwei

2603

views

财神

4580

views

BACK TO THE TOP
Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email: blog@chinadaily.com.cn
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.