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Shelling out

By Yang Feiyue and Hu Meidong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-09


Artists turn ordinary shells into coveted artworks featuring various elements, such as birds, flowers and rabbits. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Artisans carry forward the old craft of carving on the fragile gift from the ocean, report Yang Feiyue and Hu Meidong in Fuzhou.

As products of nature, shells have developed a bond with people since the days of yore. The connections can be traced to the period of cave people whose images show them wearing shells.

During the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) dynasties, shells were carved with simple patterns of birds and animals or inlaid as ornaments on a wide range of objects, such as bronze vessels, mirrors, screens, tables and chairs.

Toady, in East China's Fujian province, a group of artisans are committed to carrying forward the ancient craft.

Jiang Xinzhong has carried forward the traditional techniques of shell carving and turned ordinary shells into coveted artworks of modern taste. In the depths of winter in late December, Jiang and his two apprentices buried their heads in a pile of miscellaneous sea shells amid mechanical noises. It took them three days to make an artwork of a Taiwan landscape through sculpting and changing shells of various shapes and sizes at a workshop in Pingtan county in Fujian.

"I used red small conches, white scallops and razor clam shells to outline the stretched and beautiful coastline, and green conches to represent the island's central mountain range, which runs north to south," Jiang says.

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