PRE­SERVED ON PA­PER

An on­go­ing ex­hi­bi­tion shines light on whole-shape rub­bings, a technique which cre­ates a three-di­men­sional ef­fect to show an item’s shape and de­tails on it. re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

More than 60 rub­bings of an­cient bronze ware and other relics by Jia Wen­zhong, an ex­pert on bronze ware iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and relic re­pairs, are on dis­play at Prince Kung’s Man­sion in Bei­jing.

Un­like reg­u­lar rub­bings that only rep­re­sent the sur­face of relics from one side, the rub­bings by Jia are whole­shape rub­bings, a technique that was de­vel­oped nearly 200 years ago, which cre­ates a three-di­men­sional ef­fect to show an item’s shape and de­tails on its sur­face.

The technique used to be very pop­u­lar be­fore pho­tog­ra­phy was in­tro­duced into China and was used in epig­ra­phy, the study of in­scrip­tions.

“For peo­ple back then who were in­ter­ested in epig­ra­phy, they usu­ally stud­ied the relics through paint­ings and rub­bings. Rub­bings were much more ac­cu­rate than paint­ings, so some ex­perts be­lieve that with­out rub­bings there would be no epig­ra­phy,” says Jia.

The tra­di­tional technique is still widely used and plays an im­por­tant part in ar­chae­ol­ogy, the 56-year-old adds.

Jia was born into a fam­ily in Bei­jing that for gen­er­a­tions was de­voted to re­pair­ing cul­tural ar­ti­facts, es­pe­cially bronze ware, and he mas­tered the skills to cre­ate whole­shape rub­bings dur­ing his long relic re­pair ca­reer.

Among the pieces on dis­play in the ex­hi­bi­tion are rub­bings of fa­mous bronze pieces such as the Boju Ge, an an­cient three-legged bronze ves­sel used for sac­ri­fices that was un­earthed in Bei­jing in 1974, but which dates back to the Western Zhou Dy­nasty (c.11 th cen­tury-771 BC).

The Boju Ge rub­bing, which is re­garded as one of Jia’s rep­re­sen­ta­tional works, was given to for­mer French pres­i­dent Jac­ques Chirac as a present by China in 2011.

Al­though he had worked on many im­por­tant bronze pieces be­fore, Jia says, it was still a great honor for him to have a chance to do a rub­bing of the Boju Ge, which is a na­tional trea­sure.

To make a rub­bing, he care­fully mea­sures the bronze ware and chooses the best an­gle to present the piece on pa­per. He makes line draw­ings of its dif­fer­ent parts, us­ing a spe­cial kind of pa­per, and these are then sep­a­rately laid on dif­fer­ent parts of the item to be rubbed. Then the rub­bing, which in­volves sev­eral steps, is care­fully done to cap­ture the pat­terns in ink. The pa­pers bear­ing the pat­terns are fi­nally pieced to­gether on a sheet of pa­per to com­plete the whole-shape rub­bing.

“It took me a whole week of care­ful work to com­plete the Boju Ge piece,” he re­calls.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is in three parts: Jia’s whole-shape rub­bing technique, his rub­bings of bronze ware themed on zo­diac an­i­mals, and an in­tro­duc­tion to his fam­ily’s con­tri­bu­tion to epig­ra­phy.

The ex­hi­bi­tion runs till July 17.

Jia has been in­volved in cul­tural relics re­pair work since the late 1970s, and has made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the in­her­i­tance and pro­mo­tion of the tra­di­tional whole-shape rub­bing technique.

Cur­rently Jia is mak­ing ef­forts to pass on the old technique to stu­dents who ma­jor in cul­tural relics’ pro­tec­tion and sci­en­tific ar­chae­ol­ogy at Bei­jing Union Univer­sity.

“Now I have two mas­ter’s stu­dents who are study­ing whole-shape rub­bing,” says Jia, adding that he is pre­par­ing to ap­ply for the craft to be­come na­tional in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage.

Con­tact the writer at li­ux­i­an­grui@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Jia Wen­zhong shows his rub­bings of an­cient bronze ware and other relics at an ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing’s Prince Kung’s Man­sion.

Jia’s rub­bings demon­strate a technique which was very pop­u­lar be­fore pho­tog­ra­phy was in­tro­duced in China.

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