The Bai people of Jianchuan County in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan have developed woodcarving to a high level of artistry over thousands of years of practice.
Their carpentry and woodcarving skills are widely acknowledged to be the finest in all of China. Since ancient times, when the highest levels of skill in woodcarving were required, it would be carpenters from Jianchuan who would be called upon to do the job.
The colossal and elegant structures of the Forbidden City in Beijing are the work of craftsmen from Jianchuang. The buildings of the Chengde Mountain Resort were also created by Bai carpenters and woodcarvers. Bai woodcarvers also built the dazzling buildings of Jinma Biji square in Kunming.
The woodcarving and carpentry skills of the Bai people developed over many centuries of craftsmen passing on their skills to their apprentices. The craft as we know it today originated during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD). During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) Jianchuan wood carving became recognized as the highest standard.
The techniques of carving and the expert use of hammer and chisel by Bai craftsmen have been developed to an astonishing degree of sophistication and subtlety. They work with the finest materials, including high-quality mahogany, southwest birch, Myanmar redwood, natural plant lacquer, and floral marble.
The exquisitely crafted carvings feature reliefs and openwork carvings, incorporating a variety of images, such as figures, flowers, birds, landscapes, dragons and phoenixes.
The products of the craft incorporate the highest levels of artistry, with simplicity and elegance, embodying unique qualities of the Chinese national character and centuries of history.
Jianchuan woodcarving was recognized in 2011 by being placed on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Today the reputation of the Jianchuan wood carving craftsmen has spread around the world. The craftsmen have continued to develop their art and now incorporate inlaid marble in their work, producing a style of furniture that has become highly popular in Europe and the United States.
Examples of Jianchuan woodcarvings can be seen throughout China owing to the extreme popularity of the work of these incomparable craftsmen, whose work is without peer. But there is no better way to see the work and the craftsmen than to go to the source and see them at work in Jianchuan County in Yunnan Province.
Jianchuan County, Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture