Handicrafts are regarded as the treasure of Chinese traditional culture and enjoy a high reputation at home and abroad with its long history, unrivalled skills, various categories, and classic masterpieces. For thousands of years, traditional handicrafts have always been a characteristic industry representing the Chinese nation.
Chinese handicrafts, commonly known as “folk handicrafts”, are largely derived from folk and obtained raw material locally, relevant with people’s livelihood and aesthetic requirements such as bamboo weaving, straw plaited article, hand embroidery, wax printing, wood carving, oiled paper umbrella, clay figurines, paper cuttings, clothing, toys, etc. Due to the difference of social history, custom, geographical environment and aesthetic view of different regions and nationalities, handicrafts across the country have different styles and features, which fully demonstrate the elegant demeanour of Chinese handmade art.
As one of the three great handicrafts together with cloth art and embroidery, “knot” is the rope weaving ornament, unpretentious and dignified. Chinese knot was first developed for sewing clothes and recording in the old Stone Age, which has become the most featured Chinese decorative handicraft today.
It is amazing that a red rope could have so many kinds of patterns. It has a long history and a symbolic meaning. In Chinese character, “Jie” (knot) also means strength, harmony and full of emotion, which gives people a sense of reunion, intimacy and warmth. A small Chinese knot not only embodies the Chinese color preferences (red and yellow), the aesthetic concepts of symmetry, the love for auspicious patterns, but also the artistic creativity of the Chinese people.
Embroidery is the craft of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn. Chinese embroidery has a history of at least 3000 years. Silk is also known as one of the three major Chinese specialties.
Handicraft embroidery is a famous Chinese traditional handicraft, which occupies an important position in the history of Chinese craft art.
It is inseparable from silkworm breeding and reeling. China is the first country in the world to find and use silk. People began to raise silkworms and reel silk about four or five thousand years ago. Embroidery in the Ming dynasty has become an expressive work of art, which has been known for the four famous embroideries: Su(Jiangsu) embroidery, Yue(Guangdong) embroidery, Xiang(Hunan) embroidery and Shu(Sichuan) embroidery. Su embroidery is the most famous one.
Porcelain is called “China” in the West. It is a gem in the Chinese cultural treasure house and the most national-featured daily handcrafts, as well as a business card of China's exchange in politics, economy, diplomacy and culture with other countries.
China is the homeland of porcelain, which is an important creation of the ancient people. The earliest ancient blue porcelain in China was found in Fenglongshan culture site in the east of Xia county(夏县), Shanxi Province, which had a history of about 4200 years. The ancient blue porcelains were widely distributed in the Yellow River area, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river, and also in the south China. Up to Song dynasty, there were many famous porcelains and porcelain kilns and it was the most prosperous period of porcelain industry. The blue and white porcelain produced in Yuan dynasty in porcelain capital of Jingdezhen has become the representative of the porcelain.
Chinese Wood Carvings
Chinese wood carvings can be traced back to the primitive society. During the Warring States period, woodcarving craftwork has been developed from simple ragging and intaglio to solid wood sculpture. During Han dynasty, animal wood carving was made of a whole wood that push Chinese wood carving art into a peak. During the Tang and Song dynasties, wood carving techniques became more perfect. Chinese classical wood carving art in the Ming and Qing dynasties was mature with abundant works of animals and characters.
China is the earliest country to use mulberry silk, known as the “seres” since ancient times. Chinese silk is a fabric made from mulberry silk used in Chinese history, which is a high quality clothing material featured with gloss, smoothness, and softness. Because of its texture and lustre, silks were originally reserved for the Emperors of China for their own use and gifts to others in the past. It was the most lucrative and sought-after luxury item traded across the Eurasian continent and benefited economically from trade. There are many kinds of chemical fiber used in silk products, but Chinese traditional silk is still popular among the people.
Chinese ceramics show a continuous development since pre-dynastic times and are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics globally. As far back as nine thousand years ago, Chinese ancestors started the most primitive construction activity, and with the invention and use of fire, they began to make and use the artworks. Its workmanship blends the art of glazing colors and Chinese painting. Nowadays, ceramic products are becoming more and more popular, and making pottery personally becomes a way of leisure, which can develop ceramic art and increased learning and communication with the potters.
Cloisonne, also called copper padding thread weaving enamel, is a kind of traditional Chinese handicrafts. As early as the Spring and Autumn period, Cloisonne has appeared and reached a peak in the Jingtai years of Ming dynasty. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the technique of “cloisonne” has undergone several twists and turns, and finally recovered from the “rescue” of a talented women, Lin Huiyin and others. Now, “cloisonne” is not only often presented to foreign dignitaries as a high standard “national gift”, but also gradually enjoyed by ordinary people.
Just the same as Chinese ceramics, Bamboo weaving is also closely related to human life since the beginning of human settlement. As early as the neolithic age, humans used various tools such as stone axes and stone knives to make baskets and other utensils for the storage of grains and meat. Being woven by hand, it is a type of bambooworking in which two distinct sets of bamboo strips are interlaced at normally right angles to form an object. Since the founding of new China, people have also gradually attached importance to the artistic value of bamboo weaving. It is more common in South China.
Oiled Paper Umbrella
Oiled paper umbrella is one of the traditional handcrafts of Chinese Han nationality, which also spreads to Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Ryukyu Islands, Thailand, Laos has been further developed with different characteristics. With the migration of mainland hakkas to Taiwan, Chinese paper umbrella has also began to develop in Taiwan. Besides the purpose of providing shade, it is also an indispensable item for the wedding. In religious celebrations, it is often seen on the sacred sedan chairs as cover, which is used to shelter people from rain and sunlight and also drive the evil spirits away. Today, oil-paper umbrellas are mostly sold as works of art or souvenirs.
Chinese paper cuttings became one of the most important types of Chinese folk art that consists of a single image and symmetrical designs, which are usually created by some folding over a proportioned crease, and then cutting a shape, so that when unfolded, it forms a symmetrical design. It is a kind of cut-out art, which gives people the artistic enjoyment visually. Paper-cut works being created more than 1,500 years ago have been unearthed in Xinjiang. Professional folk paper-cut artists has appeared in the Southern Song Dynasty. Nowadays, paper-cut works are often used to decorate doors and windows on festivals like Spring Festival, weddings and childbirth. It is the symbol of luck and happiness.
The earliest known Chinese lacquerware, a red wooden bowl, was unearthed at a Hemudu culture site in Zhejiang, China. Chinese lacquerware is an important invention in the chemical process and art in ancient China. It is usually painted with black or red, with beautiful patterns on the surface of the objects to make a beautiful color world. Since the neolithic age, Chinese people have known the properties of lacquer and used it for decorating fine objects. Up to the Ming and Qing dynasties, China’s lacquer arts developed continuously and reached a very high level. China’s techniques for decorating the lacquer surface have a profound influence on Japan and other countries.
The lantern is an old Chinese traditional handicraft, which began in the western Han dynasty more than 2,000 years ago, when people hung up red lanterns symbolizing reunion to build joyous atmosphere before and after the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month.Later, the lantern became a symbol of Chinese happiness. Through the succession and development of the illustrious artists, various different styles and superb craftsmanship have been formed, such as the kind of palace lantern, gauze lamp, droplight and the style of landscapes, flowers and birds, dragon and phoenix, fish, and so on. Besides, there are also running-horse lanterns for people to enjoy and play.
Chinese kite was invented by the ancient working people in the Spring and Autumn period more than 2,000 years ago. According to legend, Mozi made wood bird that was the origin of the earliest kites. Later, Lu Ban used bamboo to improve the material of the kite. During the period of the eastern Han dynasty, Cai Lun improved the papermaking technique and then people began to make paper kite, which was called “Zhiyuan” in Chinese. By the time of the Northern and Southern dynasties, kites began to become a means of conveying information. From the Sui and Tang dynasties, because of the development of the paper industry, people began to paper kite. In the Song dynasty, kite flying became a popular outdoor activity.
Chinese Stone Lion
It refers specifically to lion sculptures in stone. For thousands of years, the stone lion has always been a symbol of good luck and peace in China’s national culture. The lions are usually depicted in pairs. And it is one of the most common objects for protecting against evil. Statues of palace stone lions usually stood in front of imperial palace and tombs, majestic and vigorous; religious stone lions appeared in the grottoes of Buddhist temples, and their image had a great influence on the evolution of Chinese stone lions’ molding. The most popular folk stone lions are also the most vigorous, and the mass regard the lion as a beast that can ward off evil spirits.