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Treasuring folk arts through the ages
2015-02-03

Changning Folk Culture Center is Shanghai’s first intangible cultural heritage museum. A combination of sound and lighting effects have injected fresh energy into the display of the intangible cultural heritages projects.

Covering an area of more than 300 square meters, the center showcases 17 district-level intangible cultural heritage projects.

Touch screens, 3D holographic projections and displays help visitors gain a better understanding of each project.

Visitors are encouraged to experience the beauty of skills and arts at the center and to pass on traditional culture while having fun at the same time.

Changning Folk Culture Center

Address: 95 Beiyu Rd

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Antique porcelain repair and restoration

Changning resident Jiang Daoyin has spent decades in learning and practicing skills in antique porcelain repair and restoration. He is second to none in repairing and restoring porcelain in China.

The skills made the fourth national intangible cultural heritage list, which was revealed in December.

Chinese antique porcelain relics are treasures of human civilization. However, many antiques are broken or missing pieces. According to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in 2008, there are only about 500 repair professionals across the country, meaning it would take at least 2,000 years to repair and restore all the broken cultural relics if each professional manages to repair one piece a month. More than half of the relics that need repairing are antique ceramics.

The skills required for antique porcelain repair and restoration include comprehensive use of different materials, modeling tools, and artistic talent to restore the cultural relic’s original essence and charm. It is both a skill and an art.

Visitors can learn more through a 3D animated video clip in the Changning Folk Culture center.

Fahua tree peony grafting

Tree peonies are the first intangible cultural heritage project visitors will see upon entering the exhibition hall.

The tree peony got its name from the Fahua Temple. In the early Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) a gardener from Luoyang, Henan Prvoince looked for shelter in southern China. He arrived in Shanghai’s Fahua area and planned to cultivate tree peonies with the seeds he brought from Luoyang. However, the soil in southeastern China was too wet to grow the peonies and many died of rotten roots. The gardener tried grafting until he discovered a successful method to cultivate peonies in Shanghai. He grafted Luoyang tree peonies onto the root of Yangzhou garden peonies, whose roots were suitable to the soil.

Root samples of both varieties are displayed at the center.

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Root carving

Root carving is a traditional art form which presents vivid lifelike human figures, animals and landscapes on polishing tree roots.

As early as the Warring States period (475-221 BC), root carving artworks called “Bi Xie” (“辟邪”) and “Jiao Xing Qi” (“角形器”) appeared, meaning the art form dates back more than 2,000 years in China.

Changning resident Hu Renfu’s root carving skills were nurtured in Shanghai. After 50 years his skills have developed into an artistic genre called “Hu’s Arts in Roots.”

Hu has summarized his root carving technique into seven steps — choosing, composing, peeling, mothproofing, styling, modifying and naming. Many of his beauty carvings are on display at the Changning folk culture center.

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Paper tearing

Instead of cutting, torn-paper artworks are created by bare hands through the artists’ skills in tearing, modifying and gluing.

It is one of the oldest and most popular folk arts in China. At the folk culture center, a table is set up for visitors to try paper tearing.

Changning folkartist Hua Xingfu has learned from artist Hu Li. He masters this special folk art and is proficient in various tearing skills when creating torn-paper artworks.

Hua’s works cover a wide range of themes from nature, animals to human figures.

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