Shanghai Contemporary Bases for Viewing Stones (海派创意底座)
Intricately carved contemporary styled bases for viewing stones are becoming more prevalent in present-day Chinese stone appreciation culture. This is a departure from the familiar traditional northern and southern style bases that have been made for the last century or more. We will feature one of China’s leading wood carvers, Mr. Chen Shihong, in this article and offer a possible explanation for the appeal of these new bases.
China has long been known for exceptional wood carvers who have produced intricate pieces of sculpted wood that are commonly used as panels and other pieces used as architectural elements, and as objects of fine art. There are at least four major centers in China for training in traditional wood carving. Dongyang in Zhejiang province in eastern China is one of the better known and most prestigious of these centers. Woodcarving in Dongyang dates back about 1,000 years when it developed in the Tang dynasty, then flourished in the later Ming and Qing dynasties, and continues to the present as a center for training master wood carvers. Chen received his training in Dongyang and eventually specialized in designing and making specialized bases for Chinese viewing stone connoisseurs. Currently Chen has a two-story office and showroom in the Shanghai Hu Tai Road Flower, Bird and Unique Stone Market at 1012 Hu Tai Road. Many examples of his artistic works are displayed in his shop.
Chin Shihong began his studies of wood carving at the age of 16 and has been working as a professional wood carver for 36 years. He has designed and made over 300 carvings. Currently, he serves as the Vice Chair of the Shanghai City View Stone Association, the Zhejiang Province Rose Wood Association, and the Jinhua City Art and Crafts Industry Association. He is a certified China rosewood art master and certified Chinese traditional Art and Craft master.
We took two Jiulong Bi (Nine Dragon River) stones to Chen earlier this year with a request to have bases made for them. He first studied one of the stones and recommended the best orientation and angle to display it. After we agreed on this aspect, Chen took a digital image of the stone from the front view and immediately printed a color hardcopy. He then drew a detailed sketch of a proposed base for the stone and discussed it with us. Once we agreed on the base design, we repeated this process for the second stone. Then, he provided us with a cost estimate and asked if we would like storage boxes for the stones. Chen informed us that it woud take four to six weeks to complete the bases and have boxes made for the two stones. He has a workshop at another location where he employs other wood carvers who make the bases to his specifications. At present, he makes bases for the Chinese market and for those who can come to his shop. He is investigating the possibility of making bases for overseas clients. His web site is www.sshsys.com. Chen designed and made the base for “Old Man,” the featured stone of the month for July 2017.
Following are five of Chen Shihong’s bases. These serve as an example of the range of contemporary creative bases that he capable of designing and making. His works have been acclaimed in China and he has received several awards for his designs. Younger collectors and others interested in a more modern lifestyle [one word] are attracted to these creative ways of displaying stones. Also, his approach to the display of stones is in keeping with the government’s emphasis on “out with the old and in with the new.” That is, the government encourages new ways of thinking, innovation, and creativity. Traditionalists and connoisseurs of classical stone appreciation will likely continue with the established base style of the Ming and Qing dynasties; while a new generation of stone enthusiasts are adopting these creative bases to match their lifestyles.
Chen named this display