Ningbo cinnabar and gold lacquer woodcarving is an ancient architectural decorative art featuring wood carvings. Excellent materials like camphor wood, bass wood, and Chinese gingko are selected for Ningbo cinnabar and gold lacquer woodcarving, which utilizes both carving and painting skills. The main techniques used are relief carving, openwork carving and circular carving. Making a piece involves a series of steps, including base carving, fine carving, polishing, paint rubbing and patching gold, to make it elegant, brilliant and resistant to erosion.
Ningbo cinnabar and gold lacquer woodcarving is mainly about joyous events and folklore. The tableau is carved in simple and unsophisticated style with extraordinary skills. The scenes, drawing materials from Beijing operas, are substantial and colorful, making the woodcarving both artistic and practical.
The craft has a long history, lasting from the Han Dynasty to Tang and Song Dynasties. It is used extensively, from articles used in daily life such as wooden beds and bridal sedan chairs to buildings including temples and ancestral halls. The magnificentsedan chair in Ningbo Baoguo Temple is a prime example of the craft. From itscrimson-lacquered floorupward, the elaborate ornamental engravingspread all over its richly gilded wooden body implanted with crystal glasses. On the whole, the sedan chair is composed symmetrically with delicate and intricate skills. Its top alone comprises of 7 layers. On the sedan chair are carved nearly a thousand objects, including 24 phoenixes, 38 dragons, 54 cranes, 174 magpies, 92 lions, 22 eagles, 22 mantis, 12 angels, 124 pomegranates,18 magpies on plum tree branches, 12 squirrels stealing grapes, and 250 ancient characters to reflect auspicious themes. From the complex patterns, one can see the immortals bestowing their blessing, the qilin sending a child, the god of literature selecting the best student, the top scholar taking an honorable position, the eight deitiescrossing the sea, the maid Wang Zhaojungoingbeyond the Great Wall, the dutiful daughter Hua Mulan joining the army for herfather,the great calligrapher Wang Xizhipitying a crane and the poet Lin Hejing herding cranes. Besides, the sedan chair is decorated with embroidered curtains, tassel, palace lanterns and bells, which produce pleasing sound when the chair is moved.
With the founding of PRC, Ningbo cinnabar and gold lacquer woodcarving met its prime time of development. It has been widely used in architects as decorations. Products with this artcraft, like screens, cabinets, ancient figures, buddhas, lions, and lanterns, are widely exported to countries around the world, and have received widespread welcome from all corners.
The woodcarving craft spread to Japanas early as the Tang Dynasty. During monk Jianzhen’s second journey toJapanin 743, the crew and passengers encountered a storm in Mingzhou(now Ningbo) and were placed by local officials in Asoka Temple, where Jianzhen studied Ningbo handicrafts. Later he brought craftsmen of Ningbo cinnabar and gold lacquer woodcarving with him and successfully arrived inJapanin 753. He lived in Todaiji Temple in Nara and made a made a thousand-hand Bodhisattva more than 8.3 meters in height with the craft there. Besides, Toshodai Temple, set up by Jianzhen and his followers, was decorated in Ningbo cinnabar and gold lacquer woodcarving as well as some figures dedicated to the Buddha. Ningbo cinnabar and gold lacquer woodcarving has become the testimony of the friendship betweenChinaandJapan.