The Skillful Craftsmen in Lingnan · The Guardians of Ancient Buildings | The Creators of Colorful Roof Ridges out of Lime
Each brick and tile embody the exact essence of Lingnan culture. Many lingnan ancient buildings have been preserved in in Guangzhou during a history of more than 2,200 years since the founding of this city. Those buildings have been standing as the condensed historic essence and the everlasting nostalgia.
Those Lingnan buildings, one after another, are still shining and sparkling after one century of vicissitudes. They reveal the productivity level, social culture and aesthetic orientation of the time period when they were built.
Then, who have been endowing them with such an eternal life and constructing such a bridge between the past and the present? Those craftsmen with ingenuity have.
“So that history and hometown memory can take roots in people’s minds.” The craftsmanship comes from the heart of skillful craftsmen and are accomplished by their hands. It takes those craftsmen a lifetime to be adept in this skill. With dexterous fingers, coarse joints and thick palms, those hands have interpreted the whole life of those craftsmen, who inject new life to those old buildings and safeguard the memory of this city.
From this day, Guangzhou Daily plans to launch a series of reports on “The Skillful Craftsmen in Lingnan · The Guardians of Ancient Buildings”. We are going to visit the craftsmen engaging in lime figurine, Manchurian window, brick and tile masonry, brick carving, fresco, brick and tile firing, encaustic tile, granitic plaster and other types of construction work. By virtue of the “hands of craftsmen”, we will tell the stories on those craftsmen and craftsmanship in Lingnan architecture and preserve the memory of nostalgia.
Lime figurine artisan: The creators of colorful roof ridges out of lime.
Those lime figurines have been standing unimpaired through one century of wind and rain, silently telling the fascinating stories about Lingnan. Behind these works is a group of humble roofers, the lime figurine artisans. Working with corrosive lime, piercing wind and scorching sun, they renovate the breathtaking scenery overhead silently.
Recently, our journalists interviewed two well-respected lime figurine craftsmen, Shao Chengcun, the inheritor of national intangible cultural heritage, and Cui Jingxing, the inheritor of municipal intangible cultural heritage. We will have a close look at the lives of both artisans who have contributed to the colorful Lingnan architecture with both hands.
Yongqing Fang at Liwan District of Guangzhou City have welcomed a massive influx of visitors recently. On the scaffold at an entrance to the lane, Shao Chengcun, an inheritor of national intangible cultural heritage, devoted himself to lime figurine and completely forgot the noisy spectacle under his feet.
“Lime works as the most commonly material for lime figurine. My hands have been touching the lime for decades but everything is just fine except for my rough skin.” Shao Chengcun smiled.
Mr. Shao is good at “fetch the scriptures on his profession” from the works by precedent lime figurine artisans. “Those lions on the tiled eaves look both restless and quiet. Some of them may appear gentle and quietly nice while others may look glared and furious. Their facial expressions and forms are varied. Each lime figurine has its own disposition and there will never be one facial expression for all.” By now, Mr. Shao has grasped the temperament of each kind of bird and beast on the tile ridge. The silent impartation from those works allows Mr. Shao to develop an in-depth understanding of lime figurine artistry, touch the ingenuity of his predecessors, and absorb the essence for his own use.
According to Mr. Shao, lime figurine is mainly made from the most common lime. Such artwork can not only withstand the wind and rain out of doors for centuries but also solve a series of difficulties in heat, rain, moisture, wind, insects and other damages encountered by ancient buildings in Lingnan area under the hot and humid weather.
When entering Yuyin Shanfang, one of the four famous gardens in Guangdong Province, visitors will find lime figurines everywhere, such as roof ridge, screen wall facing the gate of a mansion, door head, couplets, flower boxes, green belts and flight sewers. There is a craftsman who has been guarding those lime figurines in the Yuyin Shanfang for 40 years with his own hands. In 1982, Cui Jingxing assumed the role of “lime figurine guardian”.
Mr. Cui looks pretty rough in his face due to years of lime figurine renovation on the top of buildings. “I have been basking in the sun and rain. Especially in summer, tiles are burning hot in the scorching sun. Nevertheless, I must be able to withstand the hard work if I want to do a great job,” Mr. Cui summarized his 40 years of roofing in the open, “There is no silver bullet for lime figurine study. The most important know-how is to accumulate over a long period as practice makes perfect.”
There are currently about 200 craftsmen engaged in lime figurine in Guangdong and they are mainly distributed in Guangzhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing, according to Ouyang Lun, a member of the Expert Committee of Cultural Relics Protection of Guangdong Province. Among them, there are over 50 master craftsmen capable of making circular engravure and mezzo-relievo lime figurines alone; the rest of those artisans can only assume decorative or auxiliary tasks. The whole lime figurine craftsman group is in great need of hands due to the aging craftsmen and a lack of young successors.
“As an inheritor of intangible cultural heritage, it’s my duty to pass this craftsmanship on,” now, in addition to lime figurine renovation, Mr. Shao are spending more time in skill teaching, “So that the art of lime figurine can be known, comprehended and favored by more people.”
Source: Guangzhou Daily
Report planning: Qin Hui and Xiao Guilai
Author:Xiao Guilai, Wu Duo, Chen Junsheng ,Tang Nan,Mo Weinong and Li Bo