Beijing has been recognized as an ancient cultural city. Many consummate skills were handed down from generation to generation, such as cloisonné, ivory carving and jade carving. The craftworks were distinguished by their dense eastern style as the best choice of souvenirs for visitors. You can pick up one or two for yourself or friends from antique markets or feature shops in the city.
The Artificial Flower, or Juan Hua in Chinese, has been a traditional handicraft since ancient times. As early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907), women wore artificial flowers in their hair. It was a boom time for folk art in the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Vivid flowers were made from all kinds of colorful silks. After thousands of years' developments, there are over 2,000 kinds of artificial flowers, including the fireproof garland mounted on a candleholder and a waterproof flower branch. Craftsmen can make dolls from silk, with a variety of designs.
Cloisonne, or Jing Tai Lan in Chinese, is known as enamel, a kind of copper craftwork, which first appeared in Beijing in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and prevailed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Cloisonne is a combination of copper and porcelain, made by using copper as basal material with brass wires fixed to the body of the copper in some designs. Blue glaze gets applied to the brass wire. After burning, burnishing and gilding, the Cloisonne is completed. The process can make articles such as headgear, lamps, smoking sets and vessels of all shapes and sizes.
Dough Figurine, or Mian Ren in Chinese, is a simple folk handicraft demonstrating high artistic quality, with a history of over 1,340 years. Skilled craftsmen make the figurines from sticky rice dough mixed with pigments, honey and olefin. After cutting, slashing, pinching and twisting the dough, a lifelike child, beautiful girl or other creations comes out in the twinkling of an eye. You can witness craftsmen making dough figurines along exhibition streets in the city, and you may feel astonished by their skills.
Ivory Carving Ivory Carving, or Ya Diao in Chinese, has enjoyed a history of as long as 3,000 years in Beijing. The techniques and imagination of the craftsmen give the ivory a new life with their knives. Some people love the exquisite and delicate craftwork at first sight. In ancient times, Chinese emperors regarded ivory carvings as a royal tribute. Since ivory is now in short supply and there are fewer young craftsmen, ivory carving may soon become a lost art.
For over 5,000 years, jade has been considered he king of precious stones by the Chinese. It is regarded as auspicious, standing for goodliness, heavenliness and preciousness. In ancient times, people wore jade to show their status. Many craftsmen have high-level skills in Jade Carving. The jade vase, figurine, bird, animals and flowers are well made that appear lifelike.
Snuff bottles with pictures inside
Usually it is a flat snuff bottle made of glass, while some more precious ones are made of jade, crystal or agate. Craftsmen had drawn the designs of bottles from inside the bottle with a tiny writing brush. Making a snuff bottle with pictures inside calls for deft drawing techniques, and takes a few weeks or a month to complete. Many bottles are on display in overseas museums as curios.
There are two kinds of lacquers in Beijing: carving lacquer and golden enchased lacquer. Both are extractive craftworks featuring dense folk art, acclaimed by people from all around the world. Many large lacquer works were set in important concourses, such as the Great Hall of the People and Diaoyutai State Guest House.
The lantern was used solely in palaces in ancient times, known as Gong Deng in Chinese. The lantern frame is made of precious wood, such as rosewood or sandalwood and decorated with colorful glass and silk of all kinds. The appearance is elegant, and appreciated by the public. During lantern festivals, people hang the lantern high on eaves of buildings, to bring joy to observers.