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Copper master: Quality of works shows craftsmanship

Updated:2018-07-03 16:21:48   Yunnan Gateway

Enjoying equal fame with Beijing cloisonné, “Wutong Zouyin”, a special craftwork in southwest China’s Yunnan province, was inscribed into the list of the national intangible cultural heritages in 2011. 65-year-old craftsman Jin Yongcai has been committed to the craft for more than three decades.

With a history of nearly 300 years, Wutong Zouyin literally means black copper with silver inlay. When making the works, a craftsman uses black copper as the roughcast, engraves it with decorative designs and inlay melted pure silver (or gold) into the nicks.

In 1975, when Jin Yongcai was 22, he met the silver-inlaid black copper master Li Jiaru in a crafts market and studied after him ever since. After seven years, Li formally accepted Jin as his apprentice and began to systematically teach him the production skills of black copper with silver inlay. But it was not until 1996 when Li was in his last days that he passed on the key formula to Jin. 

“Master handed me a sheet of yellowed paper and set the clock on the table, saying that I had to memorize the formula in 15 minutes. As soon as the time was out, he threw the paper into the fire,” said Jin, recalling that to ensure that he had got the formula right, he spent days checking through dictionaries and experiments.

Jin is always strict with himself as he associates the quality of the works with the characters of a craftsman. During his decades’ long career, he has created more than 100 pieces of silver-inlaid black copper works, many of which won the highest awards in the industry. His works are popular in countries like Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

Since 2009, Jin has introduced the time-honored art of silver-inlaid black copper into colleges. In addition, he established a study center in 2010 and now spends hundreds of thousands of yuan promoting the craft annually. He expects more young people can learn the craft and carry it forward to the future.

(Chen Chuangye)

Keywords:   Silver copper master