Cloisonné (Jing Tai Lan) 景泰蓝
Chinese Cloisonné, a kind of enameled metalwork, first emerged during the Yuan Dynasty; however, it was during the Ming Dynasty in the reign of Jingtai that the techniques and color processing changed dramatically to resemble the cloisonné we see today. Even today the bright bluish color of Chinese cloisonné is called 'Jingtai Lan'. After this breakthrough, most of the ordinary articles used by the imperial family came to be made of cloisonné.
In the time of emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, cloisonné improved and reached its artistic pinnacle-the colors were more delicate and filigrees more flexible and smooth. Use of cloisonné expanded to include snuff boxes, folding screens, incense burners, tables, chairs, chopsticks, and bowls. Today, it's also used in jewelry, vases, sculptures and various other custom-made articles.
Beijing Falang Factory Co., Ltd.
Add: 10 Anlelin Lu, Yongdingmenwai, Chongwen District, Beijing
Tel: 010-67211677, 67211679, 7211675
Fax: 010-67261122, 67211840
Ivory carving (Yadiao) 牙雕
Beijing is famed for exquisitely executed ivory carvings of women, flowers and birds. However, ivory carving is gradually declining due to a lack of raw materials (elephant tusks, primarily) and prices have risen accordingly. Bear in mind, too, that importing or exporting ivory is now banned in most Western countries, so caveat emptor.
Jade (Yu) 玉
With a history going back over 4,000 years, jade carving is synonymous with Chinese civilization. Gold, silver and bronze were also used in Ancient China but never reached the spiritual status of jade, which enjoyed associations with merit, morality, grace and dignity. In ancient times, people expressed abstract notions with carved jade: different patterns expressed different ideas drawn from Taoism and Buddhism. Popular patterns included: peach (longevity), mandarin duck (love), deer (high official rank), bat (blessing), fish (affluence), double phoenixes (thriving), bottle (safety), lotus (holiness), bamboo (lofty conduct), and fan (benevolence). Jade is extremely delicate and must be carefully maintained, otherwise it will tarnish.
Carved Lacquerware (Qidiao) 漆雕
Beijing carved lacquerware is decorated with exquisite engravings, known for their radiant luster and elegant shape. Resistant to humidity, erosion and heat, lacquerware has a long history in China: one red wooden lacquerware bowl has been dated as far back as the 5th century B.C. The earliest pieces were in simple red and black; however during the Warring States Period to the Han Dynasty, lacquerware started to show exquisite craftsmanship and vivid patterns such as animals and clouds. Lacquerware relics excavated from the Mawangdui Han Tombs amaze visitors with their pearly sheen.The Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties were also notable for their lacquerware, with more than 400 varieties used as common tools and as ornaments.
Calligraphy Works (Shufa Zuopin) 书法作品
Calligraphy plays an important role in Chinese cultural heritage. Traditional calligraphic works come in a variety of styles, such as ''official script'' or ''running hand.'' Many works of artistic calligraphy depict well-known poems, sayings or proverbs.
Dough Figurines (Mianren)面人
Dough modeling originated from the old custom of molding and steaming shaped dough as sacrificial offerings or as birthday presents. During Spring Festival, many families modeled pieces of dough and gave them away as treats. Traditionally, dough figurines were a symbol of good luck and a successful harvest, but today most people think of them as toys for kids. Originally, dough figurines had a short shelf life; now, they are made of dough that will not dry up, become mildewed or misshapen, or be eaten by insects. Once only found in common homes, today dough figurines can also be found on the desks of celebrities and scholars, showing the surprising vitality of this ancient folk art. Today dough-modeling artists have refined their techniques and subjects. Many elaborately sculpted traditional characters from Chinese folktales are now available as dough figurines, but in 2008 the most popular choice has to be the five Olympic mascots: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini.
Four Treasures of the Study (Wenfang Sibao) 文房四宝
Ink sticks, writing brushes, paper and ink slabs—these ''Four Treasures of Study'' are the key instruments for writing Chinese characters. The Four Treasures of Study were used in ancient times by all Chinese scholars, and continue to be used today by those interested in the art of calligraphy. Brushes made of soft animal fur first became the major writing instrument of Chinese characters in the Spring and Autumn Period. When the ink stone is filled with water, it is used as a base to grind solid ink sticks into liquid ink. The Four Treasures of Study make a great gift for anyone who wants to master the art of Chinese calligraphy.
Clay figurines (Nisu Renxiang) 泥塑人像
Modeling figures from clay is perhaps the most ancient of human arts: clay figurines have been dated as far back as the Late Stone Age, approximately 4,000 to 10,000 years ago. Today, clay figurines are still an important craftwork in northern China, and a nice souvenir of your stay in Beijing.
Kite (Fengzheng) 风筝
First appearing during the Spring and Autumn Period in Chinese history, Chinese kites (Zhiyuan) are notable for their artisanship and intricate design. According to ancient records, the philosopher Mo Zi spent three years constructing a wooden kite which failed after a single day's flight; another ancient book notes that the master carpenter Lu Ban also made kites, which were flown high to spy on enemy encampments, an early instance of aerial warfare. During the progressive Tang Dynasty, kites became protective talismans for the Imperial Court and country people alike. During the Pure Brightness Festival in late spring, people would worship their ancestors, and also walk in the countryside to enjoy kite-flying and the fresh air of approaching summer.
Kite-making requires skill and patience, since kite makers must flex bamboo for the outer frame, select the right color of paper, and decorate it with intricate pictures and designs. Most kites are decorated with chiffon, while the most expensive are decorated with real silk. In Beijing swallow-tailed kites are the most popular, decorated with peonies, bats and other auspicious patterns meant to bring fortune to the bearer. The largest kites are hundreds of meters long, while the smallest can be put in an envelope. Kites come in the shape of insects, clouds, and even goldfish. The best time to see Beijing's kite flyers in action is in the spring and autumn, when the winds sweep down from the north.
Paper-Cut (Jianzhi) 剪纸
Paper-cutting originated in the 6th century when women used to paste golden and silver foil cuttings onto their hair at the temples, and men used cut paper designs during sacred rituals. Today, cut-paper patterns are used during festivals to decorate doorways and windows. No elaborate tools are necessary: paper and scissors or a carving knife are all that's required. Elaborate examples show every curling petal of chrysanthemums or the tiny feathers of pied magpies. During a wedding ceremony, red paper cuttings are displayed everywhere-a big red paper character 'Xi' (happiness) is a must on the newlywed's door. For a birthday, a paper cutting of the character 'Shou' is hung to wish the celebrant longevity; while a pattern of plump children cuddling fish expresses wishes for wealth. Paper cuttings can be found at many traditional shops; during the Chinese Spring Festival, in particular, you can find them just about everywhere.
Chinese Knot (Zhongguo Jie) 中国结
Chinese knots first appeared during the Tang and Song dynasties, but were popularized during Ming and Qing dynasties. In Mandarin, ''knot'' and ''luck, felicity'' have the same pronunciation, so Chinese knots are often used to wish someone happiness, prosperity, love and protection from the evil eye. Purely handmade, each knot is woven out of a single silk thread. By combining different knots, an ornament is created, meant to represent auspicious wishes: ''full of joy''; ''happiness & longevity''; ''double happiness''; ''luck & auspiciousness'' are some of the traditional designs. Chinese knots are used to ornament homes, workplaces, cars, and jewelry.
Silk (Sichou) 丝绸
Silk was what first brought Westerners to China, and even today when people think of China they automatically think of silk. China's silk comes in a dazzling array of colors, patterns and textures. The largest state-owned stores like the Beijing Yuanlong Silk Corporation can be trusted for quality and offer ready-made clothes as well as a wide selection of fabric. Most people prefer private markets like Xiushui and Yabalu where bargaining is a must. Both sell all kinds of silk clothing: shirts, underwear, trousers, pajamas, bedspreads, and much more. Most vendors at the markets are self-employed and speak ''bargaining English.'' All the products are marked in Western sizes, but most of the time they run a bit small. Chinese Qipao gowns are one of the most elegant items on offer, but most of these dresses will need to be tailored to fit the buyer's figure; have this done before you leave Beijing to assure it's done by an expert.
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