Chinese Cork Carving

Chinese cork carving, or ruanmu hua (软木画), began in the early 20th century in the city of Fuzhou in Fujian province, China. The story says local woodcarvers were inspired by a European Christmas card brought back by a government official. The card was carved into cork, which gave the artisans their own ideas for creating traditional landscapes in the same material.

While popular in the 1970s and '80s, cork carving fell out of public interest by the '90s. Many cork-carving masters retired, leaving only about 50 artists who still follow traditional techniques.

However, in November 2021, Fuzhou's government enacted regulations to protect those techniques. In addition, they designated certain city blocks for the sale of cork carvings; set up displays in the city museum, cultural heritage exhibition hall, and other public spaces; and allocated annual funds for training, innovation, promotion, and more.

Along with soft stone carving and lacquer work, cork carving is considered one of the three art treasures of Fuzhou.

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