On November 10th, the "Elegance and Benevolence – Joint Exhibition of Wang Jian's Fan Artworks" opened in Shenzhen. The exhibition features over a hundred exquisite Suzhou fans, crafted by Wang Jian, a national intangible cultural heritage inheritor, and his students.
Suzhou fans, historically known as literati fans, are elegant accessories often tucked into sleeves. Influenced by the ancient culture of Jiangnan, the folding fan transformed from a mere cooling tool into a sophisticated item reflecting the personality and demeanor of its owner.
Wang Jian has dedicated over forty years to the inheritance of Suzhou fan craftsmanship. Starting in December 1981 at a Suzhou fan factory, he mastered the three major techniques of fan stick crafting, fan painting, and fan engraving. Since 2000, he has researched historical materials, unearthed artifacts, and handed-down relics related to Suzhou fans, reviving the lost fan sticks and fan craftsmanship from the Ming and Qing dynasties(1368-1911). Since then, he has been focused on the research, restoration, categorization, and promotion of traditional Suzhou fans.
The ancient charm of Suzhou folding fans is showcased in this exhibition. These fans, made from materials like bamboo, wood, or ivory for the bones and resilient paper or silk for the surface, are foldable for easy carrying. Wang Jian's exquisite craftsmanship ensures that the fan sticks are both sturdy and flexible, featuring intricate carving designs. The fan faces are meticulously designed and decorated, often adorned with calligraphy and painting, displaying rich artistic charm.
The exhibition highlights several of Wang Jian's representative works, showcasing his unique techniques in restoring fan sticks and crafting fan faces. Wang Jian explained to attendees on the opening day, "Both the 'gold foil' of the fan face and the'sticks' of the fan are crucial parts in making Suzhou fans." Many post-95 generation attendees gained a new understanding of the heritage and innovation of Suzhou fan craftsmanship, an intangible cultural heritage item, by learning about the stories behind the exhibited works and the essence of the techniques involved.
One notable piece in the exhibition is the "Folding Fan with Black Stick and Gold Foil," representing the pinnacle of Ming Dynasty folding fans. Popular in the early to mid-Ming Dynasty, this fan was favored by nobles and literati. According to a quote from Ruan Kuisheng's"Cha Yu Ke Hua","During the Ming Dynasty, people were fond of folding fans adorned with gold foil. Even the folding fans bestowed by the emperor were decorated with gold foil." However, due to the intricate nature of mud gold craftsmanship, the technique gradually declined and was eventually lost after the late Ming Dynasty.
Over the past forty years, Wang Jian has continuously explored various related fields in his industry. He has summarized over a hundred processes involved in Suzhou fan production, adhering to the philosophy that Suzhou fans should prioritize people, lightness, and practicality. He has figured out lost fan-crafting techniques from hundreds of years ago, including the Hehuan fan, round fan, Ming-style lacquered fan sticks, and a series of Ming golden fans, and successfully restored the "Jade Bamboo Fan". He has also reintroduced lost fan face techniques like the"Old Alum Fan Face" and"Gold Foil Fan Face" in contemporary times.
The exhibition will run until November 20th and will then travel to the Rongbaozhai Guangzhou branch.
责编 | 王楠
校对 | 赵丹丹