In ancient times, today’s Jiangsu Beauty is often fragile, and it is and Zhejiang certainly the case with jiaxie . This were places ancient art could not resist the assault where folk op
of modern textile dyeing and printing eras prevailed. Hence, at that techniques, and jiaxie production time, most started to decline as early as after the of the skilled Song Dynasty. Nowadays, the survivprinting blocks ing jiaxie workshops are confined to a carvers were
small area spanning Jiangsu and Zhealso great opera fans and that exjiang and the range of the products plains why the they are making is steadily narrowing. patterns of jiaxie There is now a real risk of the indusblocks are relattry dying out, as the operating costs ed to operatic
of this highly skilled trade are high, elements. and income and economic viability are therefore hard to guarantee for both carvers and printers. Furthermore, the masters of this craft are nearing very advanced age and there is a crisis looming, as they are struggling to find people to pass their skills to, which is now also typical of many traditional Chinese handicrafts.
These difficulties must be confronted, however, and both the craftsmen and the experts are making great efforts in this respect. Some are learning the trade from the masters, while trying to introduce new, original designs. A good example is Mr. Wu Yuanxin, the Director of Nantong Blue Cloth Museum. He does not come from a family of jiaxie masters, but has a real passion for this art and craft, which he has been learning and researching for many years now. He has also amassed a collection of over a hundred ancient printing blocks, more than 9,000 sets of quilts and quilt covers and over a hundred thousand carving pattern blueprints. Mr. Wu, however, is not just a collector, he is also determined to make sure that jiaxie has a future, and a secure one.
The tradition of using seventeen wooden printing panels is already a thousand years old, but Mr. Wu has come up with something new, a four-panel jiaxie system. There are much fewer panels, but each one is much larger than standard. The difficulty of this innovation lies in the fact that the larger the panel, and the few panels there are, the harder it is to fix them down properly as a stack. Mr. Wu’s design uses square panels with each side of 85 centimeters length, more than double the size of traditional ones. The final product made using these can be used as capes or shawls or a table cloth for the household. This ingenious adaptation of the traditional techniques is designed to enable
the craftsmen to better adapt their production to the demands of modern life, giving them an incentive to continue with their trade.
Mr. Wu has also been relentless in his quest to recreate the already lost art of multi-colored jiaxie of the Tang Dynasty. He has already succeeded in reproducing the traditional printing blocks and making a multi-colored print on real silk. The result was astonishing in its beauty. The perseverance and commitment of Mr. Wu and his fellow enthusiasts of jiaxie , are what is preserving this ancient art alive.
Even more encouraging is the fact that young people have also started to take interest in jiaxie and their youthful enthusiasm can be very touching. One such group formed in Wenzhou’s Shiqing Workshop,