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Stone Ties Whole Family Together

BEIJING, September 19 --Lin is a distinguished family name in the field of Shoushan stone carving in China, according to today's China Daily.

Lin Hengyun, 71, the head of this well-known sculpting family, is one of only a handful of masters of this art and craft still alive in China. Lin's three sons and one daughter are devotees as well.

A co-operative work in Shoushan stone, "Spring in Sights," by sons Lin Dong and Lin Fei, was chosen as the Fujian provincial government's gift to Macao when Macao was handed over to the motherland in 1999.

Shoushan stone is commonly used for carving or collecting in China. It is named after the richest resource area of agalmatolite in China - Shoushan Village, about 40 kilometres north of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province. Lin Hengyun was born there in 1930.

Lin Hengyun began sculpting when he dropped out of a private school because his family could not afford to send him.

He was only 13. His uncle, Chen Tanfa, a well-known sculptor in wood carving, became his new teacher.

After 12 years of hard work, Lin became a famous young carver himself.

He got his chance to go back to school for a year in 1958 to further study art and carving techniques. He then went to work for an industrial arts factory in his home province.

From wood to stone

The year 1970 was a turning point in Lin's life.

The factory he worked for was closed down £» wood carving works were no longer popular.

Lin decided to change his carving material from wood to stone. And he chose the precious stone of his hometown £º Shoushan.

It has been more than 1,500 years since Shoushan stone was exploited as a precious stone for its gorgeous colours, smooth and moist character and changeable veins.

There are about 180 sorts of Shoushan stone.

"Tianhuang stone," the most precious kind, enjoys a reputation as "the king of stones." It is more valuable than gold.

Although Shoushan stone is softer than most stones, it is still harder than wood.

Some techniques in wood carving are not suitable for stone. It is very easy to break the stone if the vein is too thin.

But Lin didn't give up.

He succeeded at last, combining the traditional style of Shoushan stone carving with the style of wood carving. The blend made his work fresh and outstanding and finally won him the recognition he deserved.

His delicate stone works were sent to Hawaii for exhibition in 1981. None of them were taken back to China - they were all bought by visitors there.

Animal lover

Lin has a special passion for bears. He has studied their behaviour and moves at length at zoos and in bookstores in Beijing and abroad. If a book had even just one or two pictures of a bear, he would buy it without hesitation.

The fur, the muscle, each move, each expression - all are in Lin's mind and, in the end, demonstrated by Lin's hand.

To accurately represent the bears' flocky fur, Lin had to invent a special kind of knife.

His stone bear is one of the most popular works among art collectors at home and abroad.

Bear carving is not his only specialty. He is also good at carving fish and other animals.

One of his best works is "Water World," completed in 1989. The stone for this work weighs 70 kilograms and has five different colours£º white and black to carve fish, acalephes or other animals in water£» and yellow, orange and red to carve corals and reefs.

This work was awarded the Baihua Prize, the highest award for China's industrial arts.

"Water World" is said to be worth at least 2 million yuan (US$240, 000 ).

Most of Lin's works were bought by collectors for top dollar. But Lin treasures his artwork more than the money it reaps.

"My dad only works three hours a day now and rejects most orders, " said Lin Dong, the third son. "He carves what he likes and never does it for money."

Influenced by their father, the four children began to show an interest in carving in early childhood.

"Every day after school we sat beside our father and watched him carve people and all kinds of animals," said Lin Fei, the second son. "Little by little, we began to love it and tried to do some simple works by ourselves."

Lin Fei and Lin Dong have both become successful sculptors in Shoushan stone carving already. They have won medals and gone abroad for exhibitions, just like their father. But they have done so in their own niches.

"Our father is our model, but if we just imitate his work, we will fail," Lin Fei said. "We tried to find our own way all along."

To carve the Macao gift "Spring In Sights," the two brothers went to Wuyi Mountains - one of the most beautiful places in Fujian - three times.

They worked together for seven months, carving its beautiful trees, mountains and waterfalls. The piece was ranked first among all the candidates.

"This work belongs to the whole family," Lin Dong said.

The family's contributions are recognized in a finely-bound book, "The Omniscience of Chinese Shoushan Stone Culture," which was published by People's Publishing House late in August. It contains about 300 pictures of Shoushan stone works and profiles of 64 outstanding Shoushan stone sculptors in all.

Lin's four children are all living separately now, but they go to their father's workshop when they want to carve something.

"It is Shoushan stone that ties the whole family together and brings us success and happiness," Lin Fei said.

-- source: Xinhua News Agency

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