A National Gift for G20 – Shi Zhu Zhai Woodcut President Portrait Seals
After Hangzhou hosted the 2016 G20 Summit a wealth of Hangzhou’s precious techniques and cultures have been thrown into the spotlight. One of these much-talked about techniques is Shi Zhu Zhai (literal meaning Ten Bamboo Studio) Woodcutting, the work of which has been given to G20 leaders in the form of carved President Portrait Seals, as national gifts to mark the most recent special occasion.
Printing, one of the four great inventions of ancient China, originated in the beginning of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), improved in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and reached its height during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1622). It is in the Ming Dynasty that Mr. Hu Zhengyan created “Shi Zhu Zai” which carved the way to success in the form of a number of complicated and delicate woodcuts. Woodcutting is a very precious intangible cultural heritage in China and requires sophisticated skills in painting, engraving and printing.
Often people would use the word “woodcut” to refer to this kind of technique but accurately speaking the technique should be called “ancient multi-color woodcut technique”.
This kind of technique involves painting a multiple of layers, engraving printing blocks and then successively applying different colored inks to print on Xuan paper - a high quality paper used to reproduce the effect of water color printing. Xuan paper is made in Xuancheng, Anhui Province for traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy.
Shi Zhu Zhai is the only woodcut printing workshop in Hangzhou and Wei Lizhong, the creator of the president portrait seals and the representative successor of Shi Zhu Zhai Woodcutting technique, started the creation last July. Wei Lizhong’s works stood out, from many candidates, as being the perfect gift for G20 leaders and his seals marvellously depict the enthusiasm of President Obama of the US, the solemn expressions of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, and the beauty of Park Geun-hye, president of South Korea.
The materials used for the Woodcut President Portrait seals were carefully chosen and only valuable and precious materials like rosewood and gold-rimmed nanmu are used (Since ancient times, gold-rimmed nanmu was exclusively used by imperial families and important books and documents are kept in bookcases and boxes made using gold-rimmed nanmu)
Besides the vivid portraits of the presidents the design of the seals also integrates elements of Hangzhou. For example, the seal given to President Barack Obama features the painting of “Precious Stone Hill Floating in Rosy Clouds”, one of the top ten views of West Lake. Its bottom is round, like a stone arch bridge, and a red Chinese knot, which is so designed to emphasize Hangzhou as a part of Jiangnan Water town, is attached to it.
If you want a seal just like the presidents have or simply just want to appreciate the work of Shi Zhu Zhai Woodcutting then head straight to Hangzhou Shi Zhu Zhai Art Museum where you can see this fine and intricately skilled craft for yourself.
Hangzhou Shi Zhu Zhai Art Museum Tel: 86- 571-56137556 Add: Wulinfu Campus of Changjiang Experiment Elementary School, No. 284, Zhongshan N. Xiacheng District
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