Across China: Korean woodcarving lover gravitates to Chinese master

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-02 11:45:09|Editor: Yamei
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KUNMING, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Though Jeon Yong-woon is still not used to local food, the Korean businessman has decided to stay in southwest China for at least three months as he learns woodcarving.

Two weeks ago, Jeon, 59, came to Jianchuan County in Yunnan Province to learn from Duan Sixing, a master of Jianchuan woodcarving, a national-level intangible cultural heritage.

"Masters of Jianchuan carving can carve a common plank with various layers of hollowed-out figures, making flowers and birds seem alive," Jeon said.

His obsession started in 2015 when he and his Chinese wife Wu Zhuorui went to her hometown Kunming, the provincial capital, and bought some carvings.

"Carving brings woods to life," Jeon said.

Back to Seoul, he registered for a carving class. It took years for him to progress from a layman to a sculptor who can complete some wooden bas-reliefs independently.

"I told him one day that Jianchuan woodcarving is very famous in China," Wu said. "But I didn't expect that he would go to Jianchuan to be a student for real."

Jeon searched "Jianchuan" and "woodcarving" online and was amazed by Duan Sixing's work.

"The carvings are vivid, delicate and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined," he said.

Despite his wife's concerns over language and living habits, Jeon was determined to be a student of Duan.

Jianchuan has plenty of wood carvers who make exquisite woodcarvings of all kinds of figures, flowers, birds, mountains as well as dragons and phoenix which symbolize luck in China.

The skill has been passed down for thousands of years. High quality rosewood and alder birch are the main raw materials.

"With the help of local authority, I visited Duan and expressed my willingness to learn from him," Jeon said.

With a chisel in hand and an apron, Jeon is carving a piece of wood about 30 cm square.

"A dozen of chisels of different sizes are used according to the complexity of patterns," Jeon said. "Beginners usually need about a week for a small piece like this, but it only takes Duan two days."

Duan is happy with his foreign student who has travelled thousands of miles and is teaching him hollowed-out high reliefs, a technique of unique to Jianchuan woodcarving.

"Although Jianchuan carving is different from Korean in tools and techniques, as long as Jeon is willing to learn, I will teach him," Duan said.

Jeon plans to introduce Duan to more Koreans and would like to invite the master to his country.

"We can't be complacent or conservative. International exchanges are a mutually beneficial thing which can help Jianchuan carving," Duan said.