Novel carpentry draws millions of online fans

2021-09-07 China Daily Editor:Wang Yifan
An Xu and his wife Wang Shuangyu make a video of An's carpentry work in Fenggang, Guizhou province, in May. (Photo/Xinhua)

An Xu and his wife Wang Shuangyu make a video of An's carpentry work in Fenggang, Guizhou province, in May. (Photo/Xinhua)

Unlike traditional carpenters, An Xu focuses on creating exquisite wooden goods like high-heeled shoes and bracelets, which has earned him nearly 9 million online followers in just two years.

An, 26, of Longshan village, Fenggang county, Guizhou province, dropped out of high school in 2011. He left for Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces and tried several jobs in garages, car washes and milk tea shops, but felt none of them suited him.

His parents hoped that An would find a stable job. In 2019, his mother suggested he study furniture manufacturing with a skillful carpenter in their hometown.

To his parent's surprise, An dove right into the new craft.

An said his first memory of carpentry came from his late grandfather, who built the wooden house where the family lives.

"When I was a child, my father made his living as a carpenter and was always invited by local villagers to design furniture," An's 51-year-old father said.

In the past, carpenters were busy. Local villagers used to live in wooden houses, and before every wedding ceremony, they would invite carpenters to prepare new cupboards and chairs to welcome new family members.

However, more people now prefer brick-and-mortar houses and ready-made furniture. The changes have slashed the need for skilled carpenters, and fewer young people are willing to learn the craft.

Over the past two years, An has continued to learn new skills through books and websites. When faced with difficulties, he searches for teaching videos on popular video-sharing platforms and practices the technique over and over again.

An is now obsessed with the world of carpentry. He spends hours at home making furniture and gadgets, recording his process and posting the videos online.

"At the very beginning, I just uploaded videos on social media platforms to see whether I could make some money if they went viral," An said. "But now, I care more about the inheritance of the traditional craft."

Last year, An made an ink marking tool, first built by Lu Ban, a legendary Chinese woodworker who lived around 2,500 years ago.

He then began to design more works related to Chinese traditional culture. At present, he is making an eight-layer model of Wenfeng Tower, a landmark with hundreds of years of history in the county.

Influenced by An's enthusiasm, more people have started to take an interest in ancient crafts and cultures. This May, a local secondary vocational school invited the young carpenter to give weekly lectures.

An has designed more than 100 works in the past two years. To support his work, his parents, who once worked in the county, resigned and became frequent guests in his videos.

"My video that has the most views online showed the bracelet I made for my mother. My mom seldom bought herself any ornaments, and so I wanted to make one for her," said An, adding that he hopes the viewers will better cherish their own families after watching the video.

He has made more than 400,000 yuan ($61,900) through his videos from advertising revenues and sales of the wooden handicrafts.

"While doing my favorite woodwork, I bring money and company to my family, which in my eyes is the best way of life," An said.

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