October 08, 2008

State of joss carving in Taiwan

This article comes from the Liberty Times, from the same page as this article. I couldn't find the exact article online, but here is an almost identical news video. As you can see from the pictures (not taken from the article), the carved wooden idols look great with their natural wood grain. It's a shame that most of them end up being covered in paint. I wonder how the artist feels about that.

Due to the government's prohibition on logging and the cheap imports sold in great numbers from China, wood carving is seen as a dying industry. But sculptor Wu Manhe of Hemei township maintains his post, along with his son, and has earned praised for his conscientious work. Wu, who has been carving for over 40 years, says that Chinese-made joss are more crude, and many of them use acrylic glass, which doesn't allow for dignity and detail. They feel lacking in respect, so many Taiwanese believers still prefer locally carved josses.

Wu states that to become a master carver requires a basis in art. You need a foundation in calligraphy and sculpting. These items usually required five or six years of training. In addition, you need to cultivate a calmness, not being angered easily, because if you get angry while working, it changes the spirit of a piece.

Master Wu points out that in joss carving, the traditional ways must be followed in the figure's proportions and the luster of the wood. One should strive not to be creative to avoid losing the dignity of the joss. Although joss carving is on the decline in Taiwan, it won't die out because repect for the gods is fundamental to man's spirit.



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