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Aged-old dian cui art risks being lost forever

By Zhao Xu (China Daily)

11:11, June 20, 2013

Dian cui master Xiao Guangchun works on a piece of jewelry. A piece of dian cui work needs a large amount of patience and time. (China Daily/Jiang Dong)

Dian cui, the art of applying kingfisher feathers onto accessories, requires skill and a lot of patience. But like many age-old techniques, it risks being lost forever. Zhao Xu has the story.

Think gold is precious? If you listen to Xiao Guang-chun, the shimmering metal is almost nothing compared to another of Nature's treasures - this one commands a much more lustrous shine, a shine charged with an irrepressible, time-transcending life force.

It is the shine of kingfisher feather, the feather of a small, jewel-toned bird that Xiao has been applying tirelessly, for the past four decades, on the surfaces of antique golden accessories, in an effort to resuscitate their time-worn beauty and charm.

"Aesthetically, our ancestors placed the kingfisher feather way ahead of gold," says Xiao, pointing to the fact that the latter had been reduced to a mere "base" status in almost all head accessories made for upper-class court ladies during China's dynastic periods.

"Despite gold being valued as the most precious metal - and a form of currency - at that time, in creating jewelry, artisans routinely covered the entire surfaces of their gold-wrought designs with the feather, leaving only golden fringes to set off and accentuate the plume's iridescent blue hue.

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