Devoted half of life to “cicada carving”
CHONGQING (CQNEWS) -- Robbing a bird’s nest, fishing, catching crabs, catching cicadas... Tang Qi, 58 years old, said that these scenes constitute his happy childhood. What a pity now some children only hear cicadas sing but do not know what they are. Devoted half of his life to “cicada carving”, he hopes to inherit this craft and continue to spread the joys of childhood and his attitude towards life.
Recently, at the Chongqing Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition held in Singapore, several boxwood carvings with the theme of "cicada" were ingenious and exquisite, which were warmly received by local residents.
Their author is Tang Qi (the second from the left), a master of arts and crafts in Chongqing, and a representative inheritor of the national Intangible cultural heritage "Chongqing school’s boxwood carvings". He has been in a bond with cicadas for half his life and gained enormous fame at home and abroad for "cicada carving".
Tang Qi was born in Zhejiang and moved with his family to Chongqing at the age of 4. When he was a child, he played with his friends everywhere, along the Jialing River and in the woods. Holding a long bamboo pole with adhesive attached to one end in hand, slowly approaching and quickly taking action... catching cicadas is one of his most beautiful memories. Now, he often shares his various childhood joys with children.
Tang Qi has been fond of art since childhood. He wanted to be admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts, but his wish didn’t come true. However, this didn’t stop him from following his dream. He grew fond of African wood carvings and other carvings when he saw them. Then he bought some carving knives and slowly study how to carve. Although he has not received professional training, what he have achieved are due to his passion for art.
The 'protagonist' he carves is the cicada that he is most familiar with. When speaking of cicadas, Tang Qi will talk a mile a minute: cicadas spend most of their lives underground. After a few years of dormancy, they will live for only several weeks after breaking through the soil, but this does not prevent them from singing for a passionate life…
By chance, Tang Qi learned about the deeds of Ke Yumin, a Chinese master of arts and crafts and an artist of the "Chongqing school’s boxwood carving", and then he visited Ke Yumin. He showed his cicada carvings created by himself to the master for evaluation, and Ke Yumin praised him greatly, thinking that "the man was promising and worthy to be taught". In 2007, Tang Qi formally acknowledged Ke Yumin as his master.
Ke Yumin is famous for carving frogs. He tells Tang Qi that everyone has their own strengths and Tang Qi needs to maintain their own characteristics, to do best in “cicada carving”. Under the guidance of the master, Tang Qi's boxwood carving work "The Mantis Stalking The Cicada" won the bronze award at the "Chongqing First Arts and Crafts Exhibition" and also won the "2012 ‘Confucian Scholars • Baihua Cup’” China Arts and Crafts Excellence Award - Gold Award.
Boxwood is known as "the ivory in wood" and distributed throughout the Yangtze River Basin. It has good toughness and hardness, the older the age, the darker the color, and the brighter the coating, making it an excellent carving material. Tang Qi has inherited and developed the "method of stacking carving with chaotic cuts" of his mentor Ke Yumin - integrating motion and stillness, delicate carving, tier upon tier, and with order in chaos. A piece of work needs hundreds of thousands of cuts, and each cut shows force and skill.
Each time Tang Qi is carving, many children from around will come to see him carving. He not only shows the carved cicadas to the children, but also leads them to climb trees to catch cicadas and pick up cicada shells... The children have a lot of fun. Tang Qi said that art comes from life. What is most important to "cicada carving" is to have the love for nature and life. (Translated by Hu Chuanmin, Fathom Language Limited)