When you look at it from a distance, this huge tree trunk may not look like much. Just an old rotting cut-off tree that once stood tall and green with leaves. But a closer inspection of the tree reveals something else, a handmade masterpiece that brings this tree back to life.
Deep wood carving is an ancient tradition in China, a skill that develops here for thousands of years. Chinese wood carving masters are considered as one of the best in the world. An ordinary piece of wood is turned into a marvelous masterpiece in their hands and this one is maybe one of the best representations of their skill.
Zheng Chunhui is the person responsible for creating this work of art. It took him four years and tons of patience and hard work to complete this carving and the final result is truly breathtaking.
The carving is a recreation of a famous traditional Chinese painting called “Along the River During the Qingming Festival”. Qingming Festival is a historical holiday occurring on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox). It is is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honor their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors.
Zhang Zeduan created this painting that is also known as “China’s Mona Lisa” around 1,000 years ago. Zhang wanted to depict the ordinary life of the Chinese people. He made the painting on a scroll that was ten inches high and seventeen feet long. During the last few centuries, people have made many re-interpretations of his scroll. Every recreation includes some new details but the main theme of the artwork is always the same.
This amazing wood sculpture is made of a single tree trunk and it is 12.286 meters long, 3.075 meters high and 2.401 meters wide (40.308 x 10.088 x 7.877 ft). The carving covers a total area of 39 feet.
The original scroll contains over 800 painstakingly painted people, along with many buildings, animals, and trees. Zeduan painted a symbolical river that flows trough the whole painting and separates the countryside from the busy urban streets.
If painting figures is a difficult process, carving them is even harder. Chunhui managed to make more than 500 individual figures inside the whole sculpture. The amount of detail is astonishing. In 2013, the Guinness Book of World Records officially recognized this piece of art as the longest tree carving in the world.
The sculpture is stored at the Palace Museum in Beijing and it is recognized as a Chinese national treasure. Chunhui is a wood carver worthy of admiration and this is a remarkable piece of art and an amazing 3D view of life in China some 1000 years ago.