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Post-80s man revives Chinese folk art, creates artworks out of rice grains

(People's Daily Online)    10:35, August 04, 2020
Post-80s man revives Chinese folk art, creates artworks out of rice grains
(Photo/Chinanews.com)

Chen Guorui, a post-80s man from a village in southeast China’s Fujian province, has revived a local handicraft that involves making artworks out of rice grains after it had disappeared for nearly seven decades, Chinanews.com reported Monday.

Chen is now the only representative inheritor of the handicraft, which originated in Gaolou village, Guhuai township, Changle district, Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province.

The folk art used to be an essential part of ancestor worship rituals in Gaolou village. It dates back to the late Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) and was very popular during the Republic of China period (1912-1949).

According to credible sources, every year, each of the several hundred families in Gaolou village would make an artwork out of rice grains in the first lunar month and place it in the ancestral hall as a tribute to their ancestors.

In 2016, an overseas Chinese who was almost 90 years old mentioned the art while talking with villagers from Gaolou. The old man had returned to spend the Spring Festival in his hometown, and said it was a pity that the once well-known folk art had vanished for decades, and that young people didn’t even know what it was.

“My family talked about the art form after that. And I thought that since I majored in a fine arts-related subject in college, I had the responsibility of carrying forward this outstanding traditional handicraft,” Chen said, revealing that he visited the senior overseas Chinese citizen shortly after and asked him about these special artworks.

After reading related literature and practicing repeatedly based on oral accounts of the folk art from older generations, Chen finally revived the handicraft, and reproduced spectacular scenes of the once famous ancestor worship rituals.

In 2017, Gaolou village became famous once again for its unique rice grain artworks, with many overseas Chinese flocking to their hometown for a glimpse of this long lost ancient folk art.

That year, so many people visited Chen’s family’s ancestral hall that even Chen himself couldn’t squeeze into it, even though it could hold as many as 10,000 people, according to Chen.

Chen’s rice artworks feature various subjects, including roosters, swans, and airy pavilions and pagodas. All of them are made with great care and meticulous efforts.

For his artworks, Chen uses a kind of rice that originated in Thailand. The grains are usually more than seven millimeters long and spotlessly white, which makes them suitable for his art. The grains are glued to each other using a paste made of sticky rice.

Chen says it usually takes him a lot of time and effort to complete a work, explaining that he spent nearly one month creating a rooster with rice, during which he worked an average of eight hours a day.

“I’ve understood the spirit of craftsmanship during the process of creating these works. The art has made me calm and allows me to focus on one thing,” Chen said.

Thanks to Chen’s efforts, the local folk art was officially included on the list of the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) of Fuzhou in 2018, becoming an ICH item that carries both the charm of ancient times and dynamism of the modern age.

In an effort to ensure that the handicraft will last, various parties in the locality have made joint efforts to set up a teaching base for the art in the elementary school of Guhuai township. Since then, Chen has served as the teacher at the base and taught his skills to local children, who have taken Chen’s creativity to the next level by bringing the concept of colored works to the art.    


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(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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