A Heritage Showcase

ByYang Feiyue January 25, 2022

A display of traditional Chinese culture has been prepared for Winter Olympic athletes from all over the world, Yang Feiyue reports. 

Vivid dough sculptures, statues of tu'er ye (the rabbit god), cloisonne works and lanterns greet the eyes as one enters the Culture China exhibition zone at the new Winter Olympic Village in Beijing.

The exhibition zone covers an area of about 400 square meters and has been designed to be a microcosm of the capital city for the 2022 Winter Games. The ground features an image of the Grand Canal, as if allowing one to follow the canal river into the depths of the zone, where one can observe at close quarters the city's Central Axis, traditional courtyards, as well as more than 100 cultural items that are arranged under the themes of ice and snow, and Spring Festival.

"If you look down on the ground, it is like walking on the banks of the Grand Canal," says Zhang Qian, director of the intangible culture heritage division of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism.

"In this small space, the essence of traditional Beijing culture has been displayed," Zhang says, adding that visitors can experience culture, as well as the city's development in a three-dimensional way.

The idea is to show traditional culture to athletes from all over the world coming for the Winter Games.

"Craftsmen hope to present the best possible artistic image to guests and friends worldwide in the small exhibition space, so that they can feel the atmosphere of Spring Festival, the ambiance of harmony, enthusiasm and friendship after the tense competition," Zhang says.

Visitors can appreciate a total of 30 cloisonne works that feature distinctive cultural elements, including the Dunhuang grottos and Chinese zodiac animals.

The Zun of Peace was created by Chinese cloisonne artist Qian Meihua at the age of 82, as a present for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2009. A zun was a bronze wine vessel used in ancient China and Qian's work features doves of various shapes and colors, as well as blossoms and birds. It conveys peace, harmony and auspiciousness and expresses a wish for the world's prosperity.

A pen container by cloisonne artist Zhong Liansheng also ensures one to appreciate cloisonne's delicate charm at close quarters. The container is instilled with a fashion sense for its romantic snowy patterns. Zhong showed his cloisonne works to international guests at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He says he is thrilled to present cloisonne works in the city's Winter Olympic Village now.

"It's a historic opportunity for Beijing to host both Olympics," he says. "We hope to have the world better appreciate traditional feats and cultural heritage through the international platform of the Winter Games."

Cloisonne enamel craft matured during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Craftsmen first flatten the thin and fine copper wires to make various patterns by hand, and then pinch, weld and paste them on a cooper mold. The patterns are colored with an enamel glaze. A cloisonne item is completed after a complex procedure that includes firing, polishing and gold plating.

To date, Beijing cloisonne has integrated bronze and enamel crafts and inherited traditional painting and metal chiseling. It gives off an air of the majestic palace art with its elegant shapes, diverse patterns and rich colors. Cloisonne has been put on top of the well-known eight palace handicrafts of Yanjing (Beijing) that are cloisonne, jade and ivory carvings, carved lacquer, painted and inlaid lacquer, filigree, Beijing embroidery and imperial carpet.

In addition to cloisonne, inlaid gold lacquerware is also sure to grab attention with its luxurious and elegant vibe at the exhibition. A red hanging panel with a gold inlaid fu, a Chinese character meaning "blessings", brings an air of festivity to the zone.

"We put a guest-greeting pine right under the panel to welcome international guests to China," says Gao Yun, inheritor of the national intangible culture heritage.

Gold lacquer inlaying is an important category of traditional lacquer crafts and boasts a history of more than 7,000 years. Beijing was an important lacquerware production area in Chinese history. Today's gold lacquer inlaying has mainly carried forward crafts, techniques and art styles from the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It has been applied to utensils, furniture, screens, plaques and wall decorations.

In addition to the Yanjing eight palace handicrafts, there are many works reflecting folk life in the city.

The rabbit god, known as tu'er ye in Chinese, has also made its way to the exhibition zone. The rabbit features a human body and a rabbit's ears and mouth. It is not only a local handicraft that symbolizes happiness and good luck, but also a popular clay toy for children during traditional festivals.

"It has been a mascot for many households in Beijing," says Shuang Yan, a craftsman of the clay works.

The rabbit was traditionally believed to be a deity on the moon in charge of health and medicine. A legend goes that Beijing once suffered a plague before Mid-Autumn Festival. The Chinese moon goddess, Chang'e, dispatched the rabbit to cure the disease. An iconic image of the rabbit god is one that wears a golden helmet and armor holding a pestle, a tool for pounding materials into medicine.

Shuang is also working on adding Olympic elements to traditional craftsmanship. For example, the rabbit god holding a ski pole. These artworks are part of some 300 intangible heritage items that will make their way to the Winter Games venues. Local authorities want athletes to feel the unique atmosphere of Spring Festival during the intense competition. At the same time, events themed on intangible cultural heritage will be staged in communities and villages across Beijing around Spring Festival.

The Dongcheng District will host live broadcasting events, where intangible cultural heritage inheritors will walk audiences through Winter Olympics-related artworks. Xicheng District will put on a temple fair online, where visitors can get an insight into the history behind certain cultural products. Haidian District will arrange intangible cultural heritage exhibitions at major stadiums. Martial arts will be performed in Changping District, while folk sports will be staged in Huairou District.

Time-honored traditional Chinese medicine and Peking roast duck brands will launch new products and promotions in the interim.

"The Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are not only sports events, but also the exchange of cultures and civilizations," says Zhang from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism.

The concept of openness and sharing is reflected not only in sports facility designs, but also in the works in the cultural exhibition, according to him.

"Each work is full of the creator's love and desire for communication."


(Source: China Daily)


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