Minnan's beautiful red brick art revived
Some of Wu's red brick carving works are on display at his home. CHINA DAILY
When Wu was a child, he developed a fondness for Minnan's red bricks and was deeply interested in traditional arts and crafts. As he grew older, he was even more fascinated by the carefully carved bricks, tiles, trees and stones he found among the ancient Minnan-style red brick buildings all over Quanzhou.
Whenever he has time, Wu still visits villages to look at old houses, chat with elderly master brick carvers, learn new methods and skills and collect materials to help him develop his own style.
"Brick carving is easy to learn, but difficult to master," Wu said, adding that the art form is rather like calligraphy. "Everyone can write, but only a small number of people can become calligraphers."
He said that he has never regretted his choice to become a brick carver, and that he hopes to pass on and carry forward traditional arts and crafts through his efforts.
Wu also works on the reproduction and preservation of existing carvings on ancient buildings.
"As I repair the flaws in the old carvings, I help bring out the essence and beauty for all to see. This is also my way of protecting them," he said.
Zheng Wanli, director of ishijing.com, said that Wu is an honest and persistent person, and has developed an innate sense of art.
"Tea sets have become works of art in his hands," Zheng said. "He has carved Minnan culture into those bricks."
Since the 1980s, Wu has worked to reintegrate brick carvings with daily life and narrowed the distance between the tradition and the public, allowing everyone to have a chance to understand and pass on the traditional Minnan art and craft, Zheng added.
The art form originated during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and flourished during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It is now an important part of national intangible cultural heritage.
Red bricks were only used in Minnan during the dynastic period, and for thousands of years, the area's classical and elegant red brick carvings not only gave Minnan a unique and memorable identity, they also become symbols of homesickness for those who left.
Yang Jie contributed to this story.