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Ningbo Inlay
2019-12-11 16:21 Text Size: A A A

Ningbo inlay is among the most outstanding Chinese ancient handicrafts. It had been well developed in the Sui and Tang dynasties (7th-9th Centuries). When the time elapsed into the Qianlong period and the Daoguang Period of the Qing Dynasty, the bone and wooden inlay technique had been well known with its unique local flavor and exquisite craftsmanship. It was parallel to the mother-of-pearl inlay of Yangzhou and the ivory inlay of Guangzhou. The Ningbo inlay products were presented as tributes to the imperial courts, which are still displayed at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

Ningbo inlay falls into relief inlay and flat inlay. Relief inlays are bumped patterns and flat inlays are are kept at the same level with the wooden base. In making inlay products, ivories, shells, wooden plates or copper plates are sawn into laces, which are inlaid into the   wooden base and carved into decorative patterns. They are often used in architectures and furniture.

The bone and wood inlay craft, together with the gold and lacquer wood carving, was introduced to  Japanby monk Jianzhen (688-763) during the Tang Dynasty. Today’s Toshodai Temple of Japan has kept inlaid crafts introduced from Mingzhou (Ningbo in the Tang Dynasty), and the monks are still using the inlaid chessboards introduced from Mingzhou. The inlaid patterns carry elegant classic beauty, and the carving has exquisite craftmanship. According to historical records ofJapan, Jianzhen brought to Japan embroidered images, paintings, carvings, sculptures, golden and bronze statues, inlaid bone and wood buddhist utensils. The artcraft used in these objects, inluding image-making and carving, served as examples for the statue making and temple architectures forJapan.   

Despite of long history, Ningbo inlay artcraftmanship almost got lost before the founding of PRC. Then after New China was founded, it was rejuvenated and a lot of new skills have been invented. Now, this traditional art has been extensively applied in the making of chairs, rocking chairs, tables, tea tables, screens, cupboards, cabinets and hanging screens, producing an effect similar to that of traditional Chinese painting, vivid and true to life.

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