Carving out a legacy

Updated: Nov 28, 2023 By Fang Aiqing CHINA DAILY Print
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The Hall of Supreme Harmony of the Forbidden City is a prime example of the traditional timber-framed structures that have withstood the test of time.CHINA DAILY

Historic glory

Born to a carpenter's family in Suzhou in 1949, Lu Yaozu started to learn woodwork from his father at the age of 16.

Drawing lines on wood and using a set of more than 100 tools, he started with the basics — chopping, sawing and chiseling.

In a career spanning nearly six decades, the craftsman has not only devoted to design and construction, as well as restoration of ancient architecture, but he has also helped "export" the city's classic gardens through projects like the Ming Xuan, the Astor Chinese Garden Court of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon, the United States, as well as other projects in France, Japan and Singapore.

Lu is the fifth-generation inheritor of his family's expertise, belonging to the "Xiangshan group" of carpenters, named after the area in Suzhou.

The Xiangshan carpenters use materials sparingly, avoid redundant decorations and encourage innovation through shape and structure, says Meng Lin, associate professor at the School of Art, Soochow University, and author of a monograph on the Xiangshan carpenters.

Their technique is one of the four schools of the craft recognized by the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2009.

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