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Many Reasons to See 'Beauties of Cathay'

BEIJING, September 5 --More than 60 national treasure works of art, including the spectacular "The Hundred Beauties of Cathay, " can now be seen at the Museum of Chinese History, according to today's China Daily.

The large-scale exhibition comprises modern carvings, boutiques and Qingtian carved stones from Suzhou Yuanshi Garden of Fushan Artistic Carving Factory of Qingtian County, Zhejiang Province in East China.

"The Hundred Beauties of Cathay" is the most attractive of the exhibits.

The making of these pictures started in 1986, taking 11 years to complete and using 32, 000 working hours. More than 100 first-class artists participated.

In the two years when the work was exhibited in Kunming Expro Park in 1999-2001, more than 10 million domestic and foreign tourists, including more than 30 state leaders from various countries, enjoyed its beauty.

A picture album named "The Hundred Beauties of Cathay" was published this June by the Shanghai People's Art Press.

Chen Lifu (1900-2001), a senior founding member of Kuomintang wrote the Chinese characters for the cover of the album.

The poems in the first section of the work were selected and determined by the 112-year-old leading poet Su Juxian when he was 110 years old.

The seals indicating the names of the ladies in the work were made by artists from Hangzhou Xiling Seal Firm.

The inscriptions on metal and stone, inserts, wood carvings, ivory carvings, general assembly and carved words of poems were all made by well-known factories and famous craftsmen from around the country, including Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong provinces and Shanghai.

Precious stones

The work of "The Hundred Beauties of Cathay" is not only monumental in the traditional Chinese carving and inlaying arts but also a concentrated reflection of the cultures of women in the 5,000 years of Chinese civilization.

At the same time, it is a collection of the jade resources of China.

This work is made of more than 100 kinds of top-grade jades and other precious materials.

In order to select red sandalwood materials with no scars and cracks, Lin Jiajun, the planner and main creator, went to Thailand three times.

The artisans used a lot of precious soft stones in various colours to decorate the beauties. Gold and silver threads, pearls, agate, coral, jade, jadeite, and mica are inlaid into the dresses, the headwears and other ornaments, fully displaying the nobleness of the work.

Women emperor

For example, the 56th picture in the work is Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty(AD 618-907).

To express the splendour and grandness of the glory days of the Tang Dynasty, the artists inserted more than 400 pieces of soft jades on the skirt of Wu Zetian as decorations. Only this figure used more than 800 working hours.

The total weight of the work is 4, 200 kilograms. All of it is composed of precious and rarely seen materials, clearly displaying the value of the work. Even the seniors in artistic circles and many experts of the Palace Museum are lost in wonder before "The Hundred Beauties of Cathay."

As a precious work of art, it firstly portrays the broad and profound traditional national culture.

It integrates traditional Chinese skills, proficiently using nine carving techniques£º jade, stone, wood, ivory, shell, lacquer art, painting, seal cutting and lettering, as well as reviving and developing light-pushing painting(one kind of lacquer art) and snail-skimming technique that have been lost to the world for a long time.

The masters also created a new technique of repeated inlaying on the basis of traditional techniques.

Zhang Shufen, of the Palace Museum, in the foreword of the Exhibition of the Precious Carvings of China, wrote£º "From theme, subject and composition, to the use of skills according to materials, instead of imitating the ancients, the works profoundly embody the art masters' aspiration of learning from the ancients."

-- source: Xinhua News Agency

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