A Modern Concept in Chinese Stone Display
The vast stone appreciation culture in China has been rapidly expanding since the early 1980s and has grown into an important aspect of the arts and crafts economy. Sales are estimated to reach 100 billion RMB annually, if jewelry made from stones is included. Approximately ten million people are involved in some aspect of this culture. In the last two years, sales at major stone markets have dropped significantly. There are several factors contributing to declining sales, but the continuing new supply of quality stones is one of factor. As a result, artists and business people in China are looking at new and innovative ways to display and market stones, especially smaller ones.
Most Western stone enthusiasts are accustomed to seeing Chinese stones in elaborately carved wood bases of varying styles. The traditional northern style contrasts with the more elaborately carved southern style bases, and the beautiful handcrafted table style bases produced in the Shanghai region are fine works of art. But, these are suitable for medium-size to larger stones. Presently, we are seeing some of the highly skilled wood carvers moving away from producing a simple base whose purpose is to focus on the display a stone. A collector can now purchase a base developed as an elaborate scene which serve as a self-contained display as well as a mechanism to hold a stone. Several examples of this are illustrated here. Many display a small figure stone that is set in a contemplative scene.
These self-contained small displays are beautiful, skillfully crafted and suitable on tables or shelves. They are typically very explicit and leave little to the imagination of the viewer as far as interpretation or evoked feelings. In many regards, these are a form of commercial art. In some cases, the stones become secondary to the carved setting. This may be too much of a departure for people interested in traditional Chinese stone appreciation. It does have great appeal to the modern-oriented younger generation. Aspects of stone appreciation must continue to adapt to changing times and foster new stone connoisseurs in the future.