Wood Carvings

The Chinese use of wood carvings as decorations in households has been in vogue ever since the Ming Dynasty. These wood carvings are regarded as Chinese traditional art. In southern China you may see many large and small wood carvings in the households, temples and gardens as part of window panels, beams and doors. The famous Dung Yang Wood carvings and golden Swatow wood carvings are the two most classical national wood carving styles in China. These two types of wood carvings have different artistic styles; Dung Yang are the original wood decorative carvings, the style is more rustic. Swatow carvings are more very delicate and covered with gold leaf. The golden appearance and through-the-wood carving is very impressive.

The period from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368) through the Ching Dynasty (AD 1910) is the golden era of Chinese antique wood carvings. By the late Ming Dynasty, Swatow wood carvings had already reached the skillfulness of single layer through carving. During the Ching Dynasty, the uniqueness of Swatow wood carving developed to its peak, as in the Cheng Long period, temples and houses were commonly using Swatow's unique gold leaf carving to show elegant taste. The carvings were also used in food boxes, hanging panels, incense burners, tea tables, chests, etc. to express the beautiful design.

Swatow wood carving art often got its topics from familiar story dramas, or the lives of local people such as field work or studying in the night. Flower and bird wood carving subjects were the most loved by many wood carving masters. Cherry blossoms, orchids, bamboo and chrysanthemums with thousands of looks, and flying birds could be expressed in a few strokes of carvings to show the active flying, displaying the beauty of nature.

Swatow wood carvings used mainly camphore wood and pine wood which are common in Southern China. These two woods are not as hard as ebony, Huang Yang or Huang Hua Li, and are not as shiny and pretty in wood grain, but they do not warp easily, are generally bug free, and with some degree of hardness and durability.

Swatow Carving's traditionally are divided into 4 main groups: 1) Concave carvings -- carved below the wood surface; 2) Convex carvings -- Thin carvings (less then 1 cm of thickness) and thick carvings (up to 5 or 6 cm of thickness); 3) Round Carvings -- Statue carvings such as Bhuddas, animals, lamps, etc.; 4) Through carvings -- Showing multiple levels of detail, a special skill embodied in Swatow carvings.

After the Swatow wood carving is finished, it must then go through the critical paint and gold leaf job, in order to be completed. After painting and the application of gold leaf, A Swatow wood carving is golden bright, but the entire process from the filling of blemishes to the multiple applications of paint and gold leaf has to be done in an environment of consistent humanity and temperature. Therefore the process is time consuming, with lots of work involved, but the last task, the application of the gold leaf, is the key to the decorative art results. This is because the beauty of the color is dependent upon critical moments during the gold leaf process. The red paint is a favorite on Swatow wood carvings, therefore red with gold background, shows golden, luxurious and bright.

Swatow antique wood carvings are used to design mirrors, framed pictures, lamps, boxes, and other antiques. Even a 100 years after carving, Swatow wood carvings are the shining beauty in our lives today.