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Intangible cultural heritage inheritor builds boats to last

(People's Daily Online)    16:47, April 29, 2020
Intangible cultural heritage inheritor builds boats to last

Using the fishing boats built by Zhang Xinghua brings a sense of reassurance, as they have a steady performance, are resistant to ageing and are fast, said local fishermen, praising the boat builder for his exceptional skills.

Zhang is a representative inheritor of wooden fishing boat building techniques in Erjiegou town, which have been included in the list of provincial-level intangible cultural heritages of northeast China’s Liaoning province.

A wooden fishing boat is usually built through the collaboration of craftsmen in several fields, including carpenters, blacksmiths, and artisans who seal cracks.

Zhang is the only person in Erjiegou town, Panjin city, Liaoning province, who has mastered all the procedures required to build a wooden fishing boat.

Over the past 30 years, Zhang has built 800 wooden fishing boats independently and repaired them 3,000 times.

While the overall loss rate of timber is generally between 25 percent and 35 percent, Zhang is able to reduce the loss rate of materials used for a wooden boat to 20 percent, thanks to his rich experience and expertise in selecting raw materials.

Under Zhang’s hands, wooden fishing boats can remain water-resistant for 14 years without requiring any major repairs. This amazing performance is closely tied to the sealing materials he uses on his boats as well as his exceptional workmanship.

Wooden boats usually have cracks between their planks, and these cracks tend to grow bigger after winter. That means that all these cracks, whether they are on new or old boats, must be sealed properly before launch.

In the past, people used putty made up of lime and tung oil to seal the gaps and cracks on wooden boats. But the boats would soon need to be caulked again, otherwise they would leak after a year or two.

After digging into the relevant materials, Zhang found that hemp thread could help make putty more durable. This improvement in caulking wooden boats was incorporated into the national code for caulking inspections of wooden fishing boats, which Zhang drafted.

Zhang has always attached great importance to accumulating experience and knowledge as well as deep thinking. For him, the best boat is always the next one.

In addition to his title of representative inheritor of wooden fishing boat building techniques in Erjiegou town, Zhang also plays a number of other roles. He is a master of fishing boat building to local fishermen, a respected safety instructor to sailors, a quality supervisor for hull projects, and a teacher of postgraduate students in Dalian Ocean University.

During the past Spring Festival, when China was stricken by the novel coronavirus epidemic, Zhang joined epidemic prevention and control efforts and worked as a volunteer at a local checkpoint. 


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(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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