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Beijing museum presents ‘The Great Shokunin’ artifacts

Editor: Li Xiang 丨CCTV.com

07-18-2017 18:18 BJT

By CCTV.com reporter Li Xiang

BEIJING, July 18 (CCTV.com) -- A highly-anticipated exhibition featuring works of several craftsmen presented by the hit Chinese internet documentary series ‘The Great Shokunin’ is underway at the Museum of Visual Art in Beijing.

Visitors view works by craftsmen that feature in ‘The Great Shokunin’

Visitors view works by craftsmen that feature in ‘The Great Shokunin’

The nearly 100 artifacts on display, including lacquerware, tea bowls, pottery, brocade, ancient paper and tenon-and-mortise work, were created by 12 craftsmen across East Asia. They are among dozens of eminent craftsmen whose stories are told by ‘The Great Shokunin.’ 

Traditional Han clothing made by Hong Kong craftsman Zhong Yi

Traditional Han clothing made by Hong Kong craftsman Zhong Yi

Although they come from different places and specialize in different skills, the craftsmen capture viewers’ imanigation because they have one thing in common: they put their hearts and souls into something they are passionate about and upgrade old objects to give them new vitality. For example, Zhong Yi from Hong Kong devotes himself to bringing traditional Han clothing back to the stage; Li Jing from Jiangsu strives to restore the skill of making cult-silk fans; and Gan Erke from Anhui makes classical Xipi lacquerware, bringing endangered crafts to people’s attention. 

Cult-silk fans made by craftsman Li Jing

Cult-silk fans made by craftsman Li Jing

Co-produced by Cicada, a Chinese media company based in Hunan, and Youku, a major video-sharing site, the mini-documentary series was released last June. The release came at an opportune time: the Chinese government is promoting the concept of craftsmanship for creating high-quality products, and Chinese TV viewers are enthustiastic about content on traditional culture. Even so, its success has surpassed expectations. 

Xipi lacquerware made by craftsman Gan Erke

Xipi lacquerware made by craftsman Gan Erke

Episodes of both its first and second season have tens of millions of views on Youku since its premiere. It has won several domestic and international awards, and it has prompted heated discussion on social media, especially among young web users. It has been widely praised for the unique topics, impressive plots, elaborate scences and interesting presentation. The second season has been available through live streaming and sale online, giving the producers more revenue. The third season is in preparation.

An advert for ‘The Great Shokunin’ in Times Square, New York City

An advert for ‘The Great Shokunin’ in Times Square, New York City

Cicada, also the host of the exhibition, says both the documentary and the artifacts displayed are their attempts to explore the glamorous Oriental culture. Xiong Yi, the company’s CEO and producer of ‘The Great Shokunin,’ attended the exhibition’s opening ceremony on July 17. “Under the big environment of mass mechanized production, we present the craftsmens’ persistence in constantly perfecting their works to the viewers, hoping to awaken the Oriental spirit and convey the beauty of human nature,” Xiong said. 

Producer of ‘The Great Shokunin’ Xiong Yi at the exhibition’s opening ceremony

Producer of ‘The Great Shokunin’ Xiong Yi at the exhibition’s opening ceremony

An episode of the documentary told the story of Wang Zhenhua making a remarkable miniature of an ancient Chinese temple, and Wang also attended the opening ceremony. The 60-year-old craftsman from Shanghai spent five years crafting the model of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. The original building is a three-tiered wooden structure sitting at the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing. His work, a 46.3-centimeter miniature temple made of 7,108 wooden fittings, is a highlight of the exhibition. Using the traditional mortise and tenon techniques he masters, the model requires no glue or nails.

Craftsman Wang Zhenhua and his miniature model of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest

Craftsman Wang Zhenhua and his miniature model of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest

Wang got into carpentry aged 16. Now gaining widespread recognition, Wang said he will continue his work in a bid to reignite public interest in Chinese ancient architecture. “Both the documentary crew and myself are committed to inheritance of the ingenious Chinese craftsmanship,” Wang said.

For the exhibition’s visitors, the artifacts represent more than a mere visual feast.

Ms. Sun, a white collar worker, said she was quite impressed by the elaborate items showcased, especially the gorgeous Sichuan brocade cloths. “The display just reminds me we’ve got so many great creations, which could pride ourselves even on the international stage. It would be regrettable to neglect our tradition and the Oriental beauty at hand.”

Exhibition visior Ms. Sun poses with Sichuan brocade cloths

Exhibition visitor Ms. Sun poses with Sichuan brocade cloths

Xu Xin, a university student majoring in industrial design, is a volunteer guide at the exhibition. She said, “As an enthusiastic fan of the documentary, I am more than happy to be a volunteer here and promote it to more people.”

For Mr. Wang, the exhibition offers him a rare opportunity to meet craftsman Wang Zhenhua in person. Mr. Wang said, “I am planning to build a platform for craftsmanship exchanges in Beijing, and the exhibition is a great occasion for me to learn and exchange ideas. And I am thrilled to meet Wang Zhenhua here. He is a typical purveyor of the craftman’s spirit.”

The exhibiton runs until August 4. 

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