Art of the Iron Brush 鐵筆之藝術
Bamboo Carvings from the Ming and Qing Dynasties 明清竹雕
Essays by Benjamin Chiesa and Paul Pui Keung Yu 紀奕邦、余沛強 撰著
April 2019
116 pages
8.625" x 11.75", 71 color illustrations
HK$200 (Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, and Taiwan only)
US$30 (Other Countries)
Paperback 978-988-19025-6-6

Durable, flexible and abundant in nature, bamboo has been used as a material and subject in Chinese art for millennia. Because it bends in a storm but does not break, it has been particularly associated with the integrity and personal virtue of the scholarly elite, who strengthened the association through the production, acquisition and display of delicate bamboo carvings suitable for various scholarly pursuits, such as painting and calligraphy.

During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), scholarly and imperial patronage transformed the carving of bamboo into a major art form. Artist-carvers and commercial workshops centred around present-day Shanghai and Nanjing produced large numbers of brush pots, wrist-rests, miniature landscapes, figurines and other objects. Many also worked in materials soft enough to be manipulated with a knife—including rhinoceros’ horn and ivory—which shared a kind of loose identity under the heading of diaoke (‘carving’ in modern Chinese). Small in scale yet teeming with life, these works reflect prodigious technical skill and great imaginary involvement because of the unique shapes and contortions of the materials involved.

竹既耐用又柔韌,且產量豐富,以竹為藝術創作主題和材料在中國已逾千年歷史。即使遇上風暴,竹也不輕易折斷,其堅忍不拔的特性恰似文士正直而高尚的品德。文人持續製作、收藏和展示這些精雕細琢、又正好配合文人雅興如繪畫和書法的竹雕,遂進一步強化竹的象徵意義。

明代 (1368–1644) 的文人和宮廷對竹雕製作的贊助使其成為一門主流藝術。位於今日的上海和南京等地的雕刻藝術家和商業作坊大量生產竹雕筆筒、脈枕、袖珍山水小景、人物雕像及其他雅玩。許多雕刻家同時從事其他材料如犀角、象牙等柔軟度足以以雕刻刀駕馭的創作,此等作品一概被統稱為「雕刻」。這些造型獨特、由不同材料幻化而成小巧玲瓏、卻又維妙維肖的雕刻品,充分展現出匠人的鬼斧神工和超凡的想像力。