Hu Xianmin is an inheritor of the craft of Dongyang wood carving, which was in 2006 listed as a national intangible cultural heritage. (PHOTOS BY GAO ERQIANG\CHINA DAILY)
Hu Xianmin is in the midst of carving the scenes of a famous oil painting onto a piece of teakwood the length of a snooker cue.
The painting, titled Yu Gong Yi Shan, or "the foolish man who moved mountains", is based on a millennia-old Chinese fable of an old man who devoted his entire life to moving two mountains that prevented his family from accessing the outside world.
The 47-year-old wood carver could be said to share the same grit as the man in the painting. After all, the intricate craft of wood carving, which dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), is painstaking work. It took Hu one entire afternoon just to complete the facial expression of the man, which measured no larger than a matchbox.
"Just like stitching, wood carving requires great patience. You would also need to have the strength of a carpenter. We need to master these two aspects to be a good wood carver," said Hu.
An inheritor of the craft of Dongyang wood carving, which was in 2006 listed as a national intangible cultural heritage by the State Council, Hu is widely regarded as one of the best wood carvers in China. In a wood carving village built by the local government, he and a dozen other masters of the craft each have a museum displaying their wares.
While many of the craftsmen who have inherited intangible cultural heritages of China are facing the dilemma of being artistically recognized but fi nancially challenged as there is little demand for their craft, wood carvers have in recent years been receiving too many orders to handle as the level of interest in the art form grows among wealthy Chinese.
Statistics from the local government show that the overall output of the wood carving industry in Dongyang, Zhejiang province, was 18 billion yuan ($2.86 billion) in 2016, up from 10 billion yuan in 2012. The number of craftsmen involved in the industry, not including those who have been relocated to other cities or countries, had also exceeded 30,000.
At the newly opened Shangri-La hotel in Yiwu, the city where Dongyang is located, a total of 594 pieces of wood carving are combined with the luxury hotel group's signature crystal chandeliers and floral painted wool carpets to refl ect the local culture.