Shoushan Stone Carving
Shoushan stone is a kind of alabaster quarried from a mountain called Shoushan in the northern suburbs of Fuzhou. This craft is prevalent in the Jin'an area of Fuzhou, capital city of Fujian Province on China's east coast.
With a soft, smooth surface and various colors, Shoushan stone is an ideal material for carving and is known as "the top grade-colored stone for carving." It is characterized by exquisiteness, smoothness, softness, and cohesion.
Shoushan stone is made up of lava and the minerals around it, which are gradually re-congealed into a colored crystalline ore. Comparing favorably with jade, it far exceeds jade in color. Shoushan stone is the best of all various colored stones in China.
There are around one hundred kinds of Shoushan stone. The most precious kind - Tianhuang stone - is more valuable than gold and enjoys a reputation as "the king of stones." It is said that one liang (50 grams) of Tianhuang stone is equal to three liang of gold.
It has been more than 1,500 years since Shoushan stone was first exploited as a precious stone for its gorgeous colors, smooth and moist character and its various and changeable veins. During the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the stones in Mt. Shoushan had already been largely exploited. The Shoushan carving industry was finally formed after continuous development in the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Even the royal seals of the Qing emperors were made of Shoushan stones.
The unique style of Shoushan stone-carving had split into two genres by the Qing Dynasty. One genre specializes in the circular carving of figures, landscapes and animals, and the other focuses on Boyi carving that emphasizes poetic artistic conception.
The various types of Shoushan stone-carving now include circular carving, relief carving, openwork carving, hollowed-out carving, Boyi (shallow relief) carving and marquetry carving. The contents range from human figures, animals and landscapes, to flowers and birds. Top craftsmen are able to create wonderful images by utilizing the natural contours and fine streaks of colors in the stone.
The long history of stone carving has seen many famous carvers and fine carvings. Most of these masterpieces were either collected at the palace as imperial treasures or selected by local officials as tribute to pay to the court. First-class carvers were often called into the court to carve Shoushan stone artworks. Some of these stone carvings are still kept in the Imperial Palace in Beijing.