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中国漆器:晶莹髹漆嫦娥羡

中英对照版 2014年第4期 石悦 2016-06-13

漆器”指的是用漆涂在各种器物的表面所制成的日常器具及工艺品、美术品等。它是中国民间工艺的重要组成部份。

上世纪80年代初,中国漆器中的一些名品,比如北京雕漆经历了最红火的年代。那时候出口订单非常多,为国家创收大量外汇。50年代,北京雕漆厂可是北京工资待遇最好的企业之一,许多人都托关系走人情把自己的子女安排进厂。然而时过境迁,如今虽有很多人仍然喜爱漆器,但从收藏行情就可以看出近十多年来,漆器已变成了冷门藏品、冷门工艺。除博物馆的收藏外,收藏漆器的私人藏家微乎其微。中低端特产和高端艺术品两种漆器的生产、销售和收藏都难以形成规模。漆器手艺人人数锐减,在为数不多的坚守者中我们找到了文乾刚,一位真正的雕漆大师。

踏进文乾刚的工作室,迎面一扇高达4米的纯红色屏风鲜亮典雅:海棠树舒展的枝条上花儿正开得娇俏,树下木兰娴静吐蕊,旁边千朵万朵压枝低的牡丹,美艳丰腴。一片花影摇曳,让人不敢相信那硬朗的枝干、婀娜的花苞、纤细的花蕊、乃至劲道的“玉堂富贵”题字皆是一刀一刀刻出来的!玉兰、海棠、牡丹的组合不仅画面优美,而且寓意“金玉满堂、花开富贵”,一直深受中国人喜爱。如今,这一古老主题又在一面21世纪的雕漆屏风上延续着生机与活力。

“漆”是象形字,代表漆树上割出“八”字形流出的液体。这种树脂就是生漆,接触空气后由乳白色转为褐色胶状,用作涂料结膜坚硬,手感光洁,使器物色泽华丽,因此漆又被誉为“东方的皮肤”。漆器不仅耐酸碱,而且能有效抑制微生物生长。今天的人们在博物馆里可以发现,大量战国、秦汉时期的漆器,埋在地下历经两千多年而不腐,仍旧以其精美的纹饰在迎接着人们的目光。

目前发现最早的漆器为河姆渡遗址出土的朱漆大碗,距今已有7000多年的历史。汉代之后,瓷器出现后深受人们喜爱,漆器在中国的发展逐渐式微。公元7世纪,漆器工艺传入日本,并且形成了自己的工艺和风格,西方用瓷器(China)和漆器(Japan)分别代表中日两国。

元明清时期形成了漆器制造史上的一个高潮,形成了官造、民间漆器生产同时并存,共同发展的局面。明代的髹漆工艺全面发展,工艺技法已有14大类,近400个品种,达到了“千文万华,纷然不可胜识”的程度。清末宫廷漆器的流出更激发了外国人对漆器艺术的追捧。漆器逐渐从实用性走上了艺术性的高度。

漆器的贵重不仅在于其悠久的历史,还在于其考究的制作工艺。漆树需要生长10年之后才可以采漆,3000棵漆树只能采集到1公斤生漆,一件雕漆作品却需要平均涂漆200公斤,故有“百里千刀一斤漆”的说法。

因制作工艺、花色形态和产地不同,漆器大体可以分为描金、填漆、螺钿、金银平脱、百宝嵌、雕漆等不同品种。著名的漆器包括福州的脱胎漆器,厦门髹金漆丝漆器,广东晕金漆器,扬州螺钿漆器,稷山螺钿漆器,山西平遥推光漆器,成都银片罩花漆器,安徽屯溪犀皮漆器,北京雕漆,台湾南投县黑髹漆器等。

以雕漆工艺为例,在器胎上髹一定厚度的朱漆,少则二三十道,多则上百道,之后在漆上雕刻花纹。剔彩则是在器物上分层髹涂不同颜色的漆层,当漆层达到一定的厚度时,根据图案色调要求,需要哪种颜色,就将它面上的颜色剔掉,露出所需色漆。《髹饰录》中所说“红花、绿叶、紫枝、黄果、彩云、黑石等”就是用这种方法剔刻出来的。制作过程中,为了调色和光泽,要加入桐油、朱砂、珊瑚等非常珍贵的配料。多数漆器的制作过程还有选料、塑胎、涂漆、彩绘、打磨抛光、烘干等步骤,每一步都有严格的标准,稍有不慎就会前功尽弃。

中国漆器自河姆渡时期、经秦汉、唐宋元明清,直到今天,7000年一路走来,古老而现代,精致而大气。那份光洁美丽、典雅华丽,一直为人们所钟爱。文乾刚年轻的时候曾经下过很大的工夫,想要将较为廉价的颜料入漆,以降低成本,或是压缩工艺流程,以提高出产量,但是做出来的东西总是“不像”。到了50岁左右的时候他终于感悟到,传统的韵味就是由至极沉淀出来的,廉价或者速成是行不通的。

2002年,文乾刚工作了大半辈子的雕漆厂在宣武门内的旧址被动迁,除了工商注册信息什么也没有了。这让文老很遗憾。但是,他自己每年出品的几件精品,尚未推向市场就已经被买走了,又让他添了不少信心。“雕漆业虽不景气,但死不了”,文乾刚说。

退休后的文乾刚成立了自己的工作室,2014年,他的工作室已经走过12个年头,这位古稀老人工作起来依然精神抖擞。他的工作室培养了一批喜爱雕漆的年轻人,对此他感到十分欣慰。他说,“赚了钱,揣兜里就走是一种活法,为这项即将失传的传统工艺做点事,也是一种活法。我想把雕漆手艺给后人留下来”。

CHINESE LACQUER-WARE: PAST AND PRESENT

Chinese-English No.4 2014 Shi Yue2016-06-13

As a significant component of traditional Chinese folk handicraft, lacquer-ware usually refers to everyday ob­jects or art and handicraft work coated with lacquer.

The early 1980s was the heyday of Beijing’s carved lacquer-ware, which is one of the most famous lacquer-ware. At that time export orders came in thick and fast, earning huge amounts of foreign currencies for the state. Before that in the 50s, the employ­ees of Beijing Carved Lacquer-ware Workshop were among the best paid in Beijing and many people worked there as a result of family connections. Enormous changes have taken place since then. The market in the lastdecade has shown that lacquer-ware, although still appealing to some col­lectors, declined in popularity. Apart from museums, very few individuals in China collect lacquer-ware. It is hard for the current production, sale and collection of low and medium-end specialties or high-end works of art to become sizable businesses. The number of lacquer-ware craftsmen fell sharply, among whom we find Mr. Wen Qiangang, a true grand master in the art of carved lacquer-ware.

Upon stepping into the studio of Mr. Wen Qiangang, you will be confronted with an elegantly crafted 4-metre-high bright red screen, en­graved with graceful branches of the Chinese crab-apple tree in full bloom, with lily magnolia buds blossoming quietly underneath, and with countless clusters of peonies flourishing nearby, their stalks weighed low by their beauti­fully plump flower heads. Faced with such a magnificent flowery scene, one can hardly believe that those vigorous branches, elegant buds, delicate stamens and pistils, and the energetic inscriptions of the Chinese characters 玉/yù/ ‘jade’, 堂/táng/ ‘hall’, 富/fù/ ‘riches’, and 贵/guì/ ‘nobility’ were all carved by hand, stroke by stroke! The combination of magnolias, Chinese crab-apple flowers and peonies not only makes an elegant picture but also alludes to the concept of ‘Gold and jade filling the hall; blossoms symbolizing riches and pros­perity’, which is widely cherished by the Chinese. Today, this ancient theme has regained its vigour and vitality on a screen of carved lacquer in the 21st century.

The Chinese character 漆/qī/ ‘lac­quer’, is a pictograph which depicts sap oozing out from the cuts in the shape of the character 八/bā/ ‘eight’ in the trunk of a lacquer tree. This sap is raw lacquer, which is creamy white at first but turns into a brown gelatinous sub­stance as it meets the air. When used as a varnish, it forms a hard coating which feels smooth and adds a beautiful sheen to the surface of an object. Lacquer, therefore, is called “the oriental skin”. Lacquer-ware is acid and alkali resistant and the use of lacquer can effectively inhibit the growth of microorgan­isms. People today will find that large numbers of ancient lacquer-ware from the Warring States period (476-221 BC) and the Qin and Han Dynasties (221BC-220 AD), despite having been buried underground for over two thou­sand years, have remained intact and still attract people’s attentions with their exquisite decorative patterns.

The earliest lacquer-ware discovered so far is the big bowl painted in red lacquer unearthed at the remains of Hemudu, Zhejiang province, which dates back to over 7,000 years ago. After the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), porcelain became very popular. As a result, the production of lacquer-ware gradually declined. In the 7th century, the craft of lacquer-ware was introduced into Japan where its own technique and distinctive style devel­oped. In the West, china in the sense of ‘porcelain’ and japan in the sense of ‘lacquer-ware’ are homographs with the two nations’ names China and Japan respectively.

The Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynas­ties (960-1911) witnessed a resur­gence of lacquer-ware in China, with government controlled production and private production of lacquer-ware co-existing side by side and developing together. In the Ming Dy­nasty the technology of lacquer-ware production advanced comprehensively, giving rise to 14 different techniques and methods, and nearly 400 varieties of lacquer-ware which were simply “too many for people to distinguish”. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, the outflow of a large number of lacquer-ware from the imperial court further aroused the interest of foreigners. Since then the focus of lacquer-warehas gradually shifted from its practical use to its artistic value.

The value of lacquer-ware lies not only in its history but also in its exqui­site workmanship. A lacquer tree has to grow for at least ten years before slit for lacquer and only 2 jin (1 kg) of raw lacquer can be extracted from 3,000 trees. Therefore, there is a saying among lacquer producers that “100 li (50 km) of walking plus 1,000 cuts produces only 1 jin of lacquer”.

 According to different craftsmanship, designs, colours, and geographical ori­gins, lacquer-ware can be categorized into a wide range of varieties such as lacquer-ware with gold-painted de­signs, filled-in lacquer-ware, lacquer-ware inlaid with mother-of-pearl, lacquer-ware with gold or silver inlays, lacquer-ware inlaid with jewels, carved lacquer-ware, etc. Among well-known types of lacquer-ware are Fuzhou’s “bodiless” lacquer-ware, Xiamen’s gold-painted lacquer-ware, Guangdong’s lacquer-ware decorated with patterns of gold powder, Yangzhou’s lacquer-ware inlaid with mother-of-pearl, Jis­han’s lacquer-ware inlaid with mother-of-pearl, the polished lacquer-ware of Pingyao, Shanxi province, Chengdu’s lacquer-ware embedded with silver foil and coated with transparent lacquer, the mottled flat lacquer ware of Tunxi, Anhui province, Beijing’s carved lac­quer-ware, and the black lacquer-ware of Nantou, Taiwan province.

Take the technique of carved lacquer-ware for example. The mould for a piece of lacquer-ware has to be coated with a layer of red lacquer of a certain thickness. For this purpose it has to be painted at least 20-30 times, and sometimes up to 100 times. Then patterns will be carved in the lacquer. A more complicated technique is called colour-layer revealing, in which the mould is first coated with several layers of different colours of lacquer, then the layer(s) over the desired colour is removed in accordance with the colour patterns of the design so that the desired colour is revealed. In Record of Lacquer Decoration, it is said that “red flowers, green leaves, purple branches, yellow fruits, rosy clouds and black stones, etc.” can all be revealed by this method. In the pro­duction process, to adjust the colours and their lustre, precious ingredients such as tung oil, cinnabar and coral are added to the lacquer. The majority of lacquer-ware production involves such steps as selection of raw materials, shaping of the mould, lacquer coating, colour painting, polishing and bur­nishing, and drying. Each step has to be accomplished in accordance with strict standards as a single mistake will lead to complete failure.

Chinese lacquer-ware, with a history of 7,000 years starting from Hemudu culture (5,000 BC – 4,500 BC), through the Qin, Han, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties and all the way to this day, is characterized by both antiquity and modernity, exquisiteness and mag­nificence. Its smoothness, beauty, el­egance and splendour have always been very appealing. When he was young, Mr. WenQiangang made great efforts to cut production costs by mixing cheaper dyes with lacquer, or to cut short the proc­esses to improve output. However, the final products always turned out to be “not quite right”. By the time he turned fifty, he began to realize that traditional beauty and quality were forged by the accumulated experiences of millennia of craftsmanship, which could never be achieved by using cheap materials or cut­ting corners.

In 2002, the carved lacquer-ware workshop in which Mr. Wen had worked for more than half of his life was relocated from Xuanwumennei. It sad­dens Mr. Wen that nothing is left except for its business registration information. Nevertheless, the few master pieces heproduces each year are always bought up before they are offered for sale, which gives him more confidence. “Although the trade of carved lacquer-ware is in a slump,” said Mr. Wen, “it will never die”.

After retirement, Mr. Wen founded his own studio, which by 2014 is 12 years old. Al­though already in his 70s, he is still working vigorously and energetically. He is espe­cially consoled by the fact that a number of young lovers of carved lacquer-ware have been trained in his studio. “It is one way of living to put the money you earn into your pocket and leave,” he said. “It is an­other way of living to do something for this dying traditional handicraft. I’d rather pass the handicraft of carved lacquer-ware to the next generation.”

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