BRACING the chilly wind, over 100 students and teachers were huddled around a long line of tables in front of Zhiyi Building on Shenzhen University’s Yuehai campus Thursday, waiting for their turn to experience eight Chinese intangible cultural heritages.
The event, titled “Heritage Revitalization,” showcased the cultural treasures as well as an award-winning project from the university dedicated to promoting traditional Chinese culture.
Chinese knots, paper cutting, dough sculpture, cotton sculpture, stone rubbing, and Cloisonné, each item attracted a big crowd of curious souls.
Peng Li, a district-level cultural heritage inheritor, started a workshop making cloisonné enamel crafts a decade ago.
Cloisonné, an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects with colored material held in place or separated by metal strips or wire, originated in Flanders in today’s Belgium and thrived in Limoges, France in the 15th century. “While cloisonné isn’t native to China, we Chinese innovated on the technique and can make the best crafts in the world,” she explained.
The crafting technique found its way into China through the Arabian Peninsula during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and imperial court artisans quickly adopted it. It became popular during the reign of Emperor Jingtai in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when sapphire blue was applied as the base color for many cloisonné products, giving birth to the name “Jingtai Blue.”
Borhan Uddin, a Bangladeshi doctoral candidate of computer science at Shenzhen University, has always been a big fan of Chinese culture. Following Peng’s instructions, he carefully glued the metal wires onto a small painting that depicted an abstract rabbit before filling the compartments with pigments.
Anastasiia Romashova, a Russian freshman studying economics at the university, tried to make a rabbit out of clay under the guidance of Zhang Minzhong. Zhang, a dough sculptor in his 50s, is originally from Shandong Province. Previously keeping a booth at the Window of the World theme park, he regularly gives lectures and seminars to students in local schools.
“Many people from my native village in Heze, Shandong possess the skill of making dough sculptures, but few make a living on the traditional craft,” he said, adding that the Shenzhen government has done a lot supporting craftsmen like him. As traditional dough sculptures take days to dry, Zhang substituted clay for dough for the trial experience.
After Romashova had finished her rabbit, Zhang gave her a plastic box to keep it as a souvenir. “It’s ugly but cute,” the girl laughed, putting it in her bag.
“This reminds me of the Ukraine korovai bread, adorned with elaborate floral patterns and served during weddings or festivals,” she said, adding that she would like to learn more about Chinese culture, traditional or modern.
Several dozen students participated in a juci experience, a traditional method of repairing broken ceramics by pinning the broken pieces back together with staple-like metal. Both the inner and outer walls need to be treated to make the object look good and work properly after the repair.
Chao Naipeng, dean of Shenzhen University’s Media and Communication School, endorsed the event. “Integrating intangible cultural heritage protection with digital technology helps our traditions to reach a larger audience. Getting young people from home and abroad involved is the first step to revitalizing the traditions,” he said.