|An artist in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province produces a reed picture, an intangible cultural heritage of the region. [For China Daily/Zhang Shu]|
SHENYANG — Zhang Shoubo, 37, uses an electric soldering iron to "paint" a reed stalk, outlining the shape of a water bird native to his hometown in the coastal wetland city of Panjin, Northeast China's Liaoning Province.
"This is a Sauders's gull, or the Chinese black-headed gull, which is a name card for our city," says Zhang, a farmer who has been familiar with reed marshes since childhood and is emotionally bonded with the rare species.
According to data from local authorities, some 10,000 such gulls, around half of the total population of the species, inhabit in Panjin.
After struggling with his livelihood in Beijing, Zhang decided to return to his hometown in 2003 and explore a new career. He learned to create reed handicrafts from elderly craftsmen and has been engaged in producing products to introduce Panjin and its scenic beauty to the world.
Reed handicraft requires multiple steps, including material selection, soaking, ironing, composition, decomposition, coloring and framing, before it becomes a completed artwork.
Zhang arrives at his studio at around 8 am every day and is engrossed in his creative craft until 9 pm.
"Traditional Chinese landscape paintings, which mostly portray mountains, water, flowers and birds, have inspired my creations. They convey the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature," Zhang says. "I'd like my art to convey something similar."
Panjin's wetland covers an area of 249,600 hectares, accounting for more than 61 percent of the city's total landmass, thereby playing a significant role in climate regulation and air purification for China and surrounding countries.
The city yields more than 500,000 metric tons of reeds every year, which are mostly used in papermaking and construction-related works.
"Every autumn when the reeds are ripe, I will go to the wetland to collect the materials," Zhang says. Reed stalks used in making the special handicrafts need to be thick and long.
"Cut open the reed stalk with a knife, flatten it and stick cardboard on its back, and it will become the raw material for a reed picture," he says.
With the advent of e-commerce platforms and booming tourism in China, Zhang's works have been sold nationwide as well as overseas, including to Canada, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan.
The reed artwork has been listed as one of the intangible cultural heritages of Panjin and Zhang has become an inheritor. Hundreds of craftsmen like Zhang are creating such handicrafts using the reeds.
Tourists flock to Zhang's studio every day, and he is invariably delighted to share his production techniques with visitors.
"More people will get to know about Panjin's reed handicrafts and learn about the city's wetland and bird conservation, which will help people comprehend the ecological concept of harmony between people and nature," Zhang says.
Please understand that womenofchina.cn,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by womenofchina.cn.