Originating during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Guangyuan baihua stone carving is known as one of the "four famous carving arts" in China, and was inscribed on the second national intangible cultural heritage list in 2008.
The baihua stones are unique to Daba Mountain in Sichuan province. The deep green and brown stones have a fine and soft quality, with natural strata of white, grey and light green. Since the Qing Dynasty, the craftsmen in Guangyuan have been making artifacts out of these stones using different carving skills, and have cultivated a charming style.
These craftsmen are adept at highlighting the beauty of this special material with their excellent designs. “The creation starts at the first sight of the stones,” said Tang Jun, the representative inheritor of the baihua stone carving arts. Meanwhile, motifs must be adjusted at any time due to the colors and textures of the stones. Any small mistake might destroy all the carver's efforts.
“One piece of work involves, at minimum, more than 20 processes, and each one is absolutely unique,” explained Tang Jun. With a high art and collection value, these stone works have been displayed abroad since 1978.
Inheritance and development
Founded by Wei Xixian and Wei Lixian in 1912, the Iron Pen Studio specializes in the baihua stone carving art, and it has trained many masters. Its products have won wide acclaim and been displayed in previous National Arts and Crafts Exhibitions.
Today, the fourth generation representatives of this studio have also made their own names heard. Inspired by local culture nourished by the ancient road from Shaanxi to Sichuan, Tang Jun’s works are prized, and often shine in international cultural exchanges events. Xiang Youlin has made several stationery items using traditional crafts that have also been well received.
A table, a chair, a hammer and a set of chisels are the keys to a whole world for a stone carver. Within this limited space, they not only make wonderful artworks but also expand the human civilization, leaving deep cultural imprints on these beautiful stones.
Inheritance through collaboration
“Since learning from my master at 16 years old, persistence in this craft has been my life-long pursuit. The white stone flower carving is now an important element in cultural exchanges, and I still have a very long way to go to perfect and develop it. I need to continuously innovate and to cultivate many more inheritors,” said Tang Jun when sharing his opinion about inheriting intangible cultural heritage.
Guangyuan city has built a system for inheriting its intangible cultural heritage. Meanwhile, a training center for baihua stone carving has been established, which also collaborates with other schools to build a related research and study base.
In order to set up an company integrating production, sales, research and teaching, Tang Jun registered Guangyuan Iron Pen baihua Stone Carving Studio and Guangyuan Tangyun Stone Carving Arts and Crafts Company in 2015, and has trained three disciples.
“In the inheritance and development of intangible cultural heritage, I will have the courage to take responsibility and be innovative, so that baihua stone carvings can shine on the stage of cultural heritage!" said Tang Jun.