80 year-old Wu Xin’an showed off a colour-glazed glass Jasmine flower made solely by himself; the delicate buds peaking through the transparent glass amazed the crowds. Wu Xin’an has devoted his life to the production of glassware since he was a teenager. As a present practitioner of this centuries-old craft from Qinhuai district, Wu is delighted to see his lifetime’s passion these days drawing a massive public interest.
As the 2016 Lantern Festival of Confucius Temple came to an close, Qinhuai district, home to the most cultural and historical sites in Nanjing, has a lot more to offer and with less of a maddening crowd.
The “Fabulous Qinhuai; The Best of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Qinhuai District” exhibition was launched in February at the 1865 Creative Industry Park Finder Art District, situated next to the newly renovated Dabaoen Temple. Over 30 intangible cultural heritages constituting more than 400 artefacts have been put on show, including world-class intangible heritage such as the Jingling Sutras and the ancient Chinese Guqin. A host of national and provincial level heritages including Qinhuai Flower Lanterns, filigree, glassware, pyrography, root sculptures and traditional handicrafts such as the Chinese Knots are also being showcased.
The exhibition is much more than dead objects on display. On the opening day there were interactive activities where one could chat with the present practitioners of the ancient crafts such as Wu Xi’an as well as enjoying live performances, such as “Baiju”(Traditional Nanjing Dialect Talkshow) and Shadow play, one of the earliest opera forms, dating back to 2000 years, that is also a unique art form combining Chinese folk arts and crafts with opera.
Visitors also have a chance to marvel at the modern day creation in the exhibit hall by the local shadow play master Zhang Yanlin. A visitor commented at Zhang’s collection of 12 animals of Chinese Zodiac signs made from rawhide, “I once thought shadow play was only about historical figures. I didn't expect them to be so cute."
More items on display to wow exhibition attendees are Nanjing’s famous Yuhua stones that are known for their beautiful and unique patterns. A local artist painted his imagination of the stone with themes of scenery and ancient tales, and then put these paintings next to the river stones, giving visitors chances to appreciate the wonders of nature.
Don’t forget to look up at the ceilings where the different shapes and colours of Qinhuai lanterns are on display. “This year marks the 30-year anniversary of the Qinhuai Lantern Festival, also the 10-year anniversary of the Qinhuai Lantern Art as a national intangible cultural heritage”, Deputy Chief of the Qinhuai Cultural Bureau Tu Kangmin said. The exhibition is one of the series of efforts to protect and rejuvenate such heritage and encourage people to “appreciate the beauty and charm of traditional craftsmanship”.
"It's not true that we don't need the old crafts anymore. But the old crafts need some new carriers and ways of spreading. I hope we can help more elements of intangible cultural heritage return to ordinary Chinese families," said the glass artist Wu Xin’an.
The exhibition is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m everyday until 8 March at the 1865 Creative Industry Park Finder Art District. Admission is free.