China Arts and Crafts Museum

China Arts and Crafts MuseumChina Arts and Crafts Museum which is located on the northeastern side of the Fuxingmen Overpass on the Second Ring Road in west Beijing. Covering an area of 43,000 square metres, the muse-um is the biggest of its kind ever built in China. Construction of the museum started in 1987 and was completed in October 1989. The Treasure Hall is on the Fifth Floor. China Arts & Crafts Trading Company is on the First and Second Floors. Everyday more than10,000 people visit the museum to purchase arts and crafts made in China or see the four jadeite carvings – a miniature Taishan Mountain(Mount Tai in Shandong Province), a relief screen of dragons, a chained vase and a perfumer. Those four giant jadeite ornaments are commonly known as the national arts and crafts treasures in China.

The miniature Mt. Taishan is made of a 363. 8-kilogram jadeite stone, the largest ever known in China. It shows the majestic frame of Taishan, a sacred mountain in East China. The craftsmen followed the stone’s natural shape, veining and bands of colour to create the peak, trees, temple houses, bridges, waterfalls, brooks, 64 people and 21 animals. The most intricate part of this carving is a glowing sun on the side of the cliff. The sun traced with thin cloud was originally an impurity in the jade. The thoughtful craftsmen carved it into a thin, translucent plaque to reflect its orange colour. ‘Another flaw was turned into a pair of gliding cranes to evoke a famous Tang Dynasty(618-907) poem about Mt.Taishan. The stone’s original height was81 centimetres, while the finished work is 80 centimetres high, indicating the designers’ effort to save every modicum of this phenomenal jadeite.

The relief screen of dragons is the-most brilliant of the four. It is carved with nine coiling dragons. The jadeite is stunningly beautiful in texture, streaked with dark green, apple-green and opal white: To exaggerate the stone’s fine quality, the craftsmen sawed the block into four 1.8-centimetre-thick slabs and assembled them into one large screen, 146 by 73. 5 centimetres. The designers incorporated the stone’s nuances of colour to depict the rolling dragons, churning clouds and the turbulent sea. They achieved a vivid, three-dimensional picture on a slab. There are four brownish streaks in the screen which the designers cleverly turned into water jets from the dragons’ mouths, thus turning flaws into assets.

The chained vase is a glossy and filled with a dozen species of flowers. The craftsmen succeeded in conjuring up a marvelous vase by hiding the stone’s flaws in the complexity of flowers. It is 64 centimetres high, 28 centimetres taller than the original jade. The added height was created by carving 36 interlocked rings out of the same jade piece, thus elongating the jade by hanging the chain on a wooden stand. The craftsmen searched for a pure area of jadeite in which to carve the long chain twisting in and out of the jadeite stone four times. Chain-carving is the most challenging part of this work. You must be extremely careful to avoid flaws in the jadeite, otherwise the chain will break and you can never repair it. Using adhesives to fix broken jade is considered dishonest by jade carvers.

The fourth incredible creation is the extravagant-looking perfumer in the shape of a two-eared cup. The jadeite piece is the second largest of the four, weighing 274. 4 kilograms. Because of its enormous size, the designers decided to make it into a perfumer, the state-of-the-art product of the Beijing Jade Carving Factory, the largest in China. The factory is advanced in cutting layers of bowls out of jade, but was nervous with this superb jadeite, so a special rotating cutter machine was built to cut three bowls out of it. The bowls form the base, cup and cover of the perfumer and are screwed together with carved spiral ridges. The 71-centimetre-high perfumer is carved with dragons, phoenix, turtles, white tigers, and other significant creatures in Chinese mythology. It also has 10 rings that dangle from carved decorations.

Jadeite (imperial jade) is the hard variety of jade. Soft jade is called nephrite, or “mutton-fat.” Jadeite is finer and rarer than nephrite and mainly comes from northern Burma. The four giant jadeite stones, all brought from Burma at an unknown date, had been stored at the government treasury since 1949. In 1982, the State Council entrusted the factory to turn the stones into art works. During the next two years, 78 designs were made, involving 32 well-known artists and jade connoisseurs. The carving began in June 1985 and involved some 40 craftsmen working for nearly four years. Polishing took another six months, and the perfumer took even longer.

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