China Signet [edit this]
Seal cutting on good stones, is called the art of gold stones also. It is one of the outstanding traditional culture art in China. Its origins can be traced back to Chum Qiu period or event older. Because the font in ancident China is the seal Character, in ancient called seal cutting, we use this parlance until now. The art of seal cutting came from ancient art of stamp. "Print" in ancient time means "Credit". The earliest stamp in china is the three imperatorial stamps in Shang Dynasty. It has the history of 3000 years, After finishing making a stamp, we have to dip red inkpad to make it useful. In Wei Jin Dynasty and the Southern and Northern Dynasty people began to use the seal on paper with vermilion. The vermilion inkpad is red with a little purple, massive and disimpassioned. It is the most beautiful and is praised as "The Vermillion emits luster and the incision on the jade is bright. " The quality of ancient stamp is simplicity. it is the collector's item in the world.
Edit by: Ryan
Cai Shen [edit this]
The image of a lotus flower on his chest and mushroom in his hand are symbols of fertility and longevity, as well as tell-tale signs of the authentic god of luck and prosperity. There are as many variations of Cai Shen, as there are of his Western gift-bearing counterpart, Santa Claus.
There are other gods more particular to Lingnan culture, such as general Guan Yunchang, the god of loyalty and credit, and Guanyin the Chinese goddess of mercy that get mixed up in the shuffle of deities during this time of the year. It can be seen how these deities would be bone fide allies in financial matters. Given Guangdongss status as the commerce jewel in the crown of China, it becomes abundantly clear why these gods hold special prominence in Lingnan culture, as much of the region has enloyed prosperous growth. Therefore, it would be wise to give them all a bit of tribute once in a while, to keep the books balanced and everything in the black.
The most popular place to find the god of loyalty and credit is in restaurants. On New Year's Eve of the Spring Festival, I dined with friends at a nearby Canton restaurant to celebrate the occasion. As we sat down at the dinner table, I saw something resembling a Buddhist altarpiece against the restaurant wall. My friend said it was an altarpiece to the General Guan Yunchang, the god of loyalty and credit. During the meal, I espied the altar a number of times. The general boldly displayed his powerful sword and helmet, assuring diners that the restaurant appreciates their patronage and credit cards are accepted. Lined across the baseboard of his altar were candles, incense, brass serving plates of fruit and small cups of tea. These were neatly arranged tributes. I was told that this was done every day, and that this particular god is the favorite of local restaurants. The good General looked happy, as his tributary vessels were over-flowing with oranges, apples and other offerings. Let it be said that locals honor the gods well. Perhaps this custom offers insight to the secret of their success; you have to pay your dues to the local gods. In light of Lingnan culture's reverence for opulence and wealth, it is no surprise that the nationally known incantation for the spring festival “Gong xi fa cai” (wish you a fortune) is often attributed to the Cantonese.
The Canton fervor for fireworks during the Spring Festival is also emblematic of their fervor for fortune and Cai Shen. It is said Cai Shen goes to heaven on the eve of the new year. There he will consort with the gods and goddess for four days, discussing the family's fortunes. On the fifth day he returns to earth to wish everyone luck and good fortune. The custom of lighting fireworks off, particularly on the fifth night, it to bid Cai Shen back to earth with a hearty welcome. All the splendor, bang and boon of bottle-rockets, Roman candles, fire-crackers and other fireworks make for a grand pyrotechnic display to dazzle the wealthy god in hopes of winning his blessing of luck in mattrs of money.
If you missed shooting fireworks to honor Cai Shen during the Spring Festival, you still have another chance. His birthday cake is promptly baked on the fifth day of the first lunar month. Be sure to mark your calendars and pull out your fishing pole. In the Lingnan region, as is the custom, worshippers briefly hold live fish before the altar then cast them back into water to live and multiply. There is a bit of wordplay here, as the Chinese word for fish (yu) is a homophone for the Chinese word for “extra” or “abundance”.
Those who really want Cai Shen to show them favor should cut to the chase and create their own personal altar to the venerable god of fortune. While you're at it, add a little room for General Guan and Guanyin on your altar wall. You can choose from pictures or statuary to display your enthusiasm for the God of Wealth and his Lingnan friends. To stay in good graces with Cai Shen and the others is easy, just give them offerings of fruit and incense and their hearts are content. Best of all, you've just made business connections that no one in South China can live without. Wish you a fortune!
Edit by: Dorothy
Taihu Rockery [edit this]
When you visit traditional Chinese gardens, whether they be the imperial ones in Beijing or the private ones in east China, there is something you will not want to miss: the so-called Taihu Rockery. Introduced into Chinese architecture over 1,000 years ago, the rockeries are perfect examples of a major Chinese architectural style based on the principal of harmony with nature.
A Taihu Rockery could range in height from less than a foot to around twenty feet and gets its name from the area where the stones are sourced: Lake Taihu in east China's Jiangsu Province. This area has an abundance of limestone rocks and and constant erosion by rain has formed the rocks into pieces of art, exotic and beautiful.
The beauty of the rockery, however, does not simply come from nature. Since the early years of this architectural style, artists have been polishing the rocks to fit different styles of gardens. After the polishing, the rocks are returned to the lake area and left there for years so that natural erosion can gradually bring back their original beauty.
Traditionally, small rocks are glued together to form a large rockery, which might resemble a jagged stone hill, or a rock island planted in the middle of a pond. Sometimes, the “hills” and “islands” are planted with mosses and dwarfish bushes. Such Taihu Rockery masterpieces are well worth viewing and are a favorite subject of Chinese paintings.
Edit by: Dorothy
Screen Wall [edit this]
The earliest screen wall ever found in China was constructed in the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century B.C.-771 B.C.). The remains of this wall, measuring around 98 inches long and 8 inches high, were discovered from an ancient tomb of that dynasty.
Also called “yingbi” or “zhaobi” in Chinese, screen wall is an isolated wall either outside or just inside the gate of a traditional Chinese house. Screens at the entrance of a house are often built to block the view of passers-by, as well as to decorate a courtyard. They can also provide privacy for visitors just entering the courtyard to tidy up their outfit. As for those outside the entrance, they usually serve the purpose of keeping the untidy scene on the opposite side out of view.
Beijing is a city abundant of screen walls, where visitors might easily find one in a traditional courtyard. One of the most famous is the so-called “Iron Screenwall” constructed in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Seemingly cast of iron, it is actually a piece of volcanic rock. Originally located in the Iron Screen Lane named after it, the wall now stands in the Beihai Park, and is reserved a national treasure. Among all the ancient screen walls, however, the most elegant are the three “nine-dragon walls” built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The largest and earliest one of them is in the city of Datong, which is dubbed as “the City of Dragon Walls”. Around 150 feet long, 26 feet high and 7 feet thin, the wall originally stood in front of the mansion of a prince of the Ming Dynasty. On this wall, there are nine dragons made of glazed color tile in different colors, cruising in clouds.
Edit by: Dorothy
Stone Lion [edit this]
It would be a quite curious thing to notice so many stone lions all over China, for the country is not the habitat of lions. According to historical record, it is during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.) that the first lion was brought into China. It was a present from the king of Parthia to the Han Emperor. But the stone lions came to China some decades earlier than the real one: it was introduced into the country along with Buddhism.
The lion is regarded in Buddhism as a divine animal of might and nobleness, capable of warding off evil spirits. Under such influence, ancient Chinese consider it as the monarch of all animals, and stone lions were carved outside the buildings of royal family and court officials to represent their dignity and prestige.
Traditionally, there are often a pair of lions standing in front of the gates of buildings. On the left is always a male lion with its right paw resting on a ball, while on the right is a female, with its left paw fondling a small cub. The symbolization of these two lions are different: the male playing with a ball indicates the sense of dignity, and the female with a cub symbolizes thriving offspring.
Nowadays, you can see stone lions not only in front of the gates of traditional buildings such as palace halls and court offices, but also many modern mansions. One thing you might find interesting is that most Chinese banks like to carve stone lions at the gates of their buildings. What they are hoping is that those lions can keep away anything bad and bring prosperity to their business.
Edit by: Dorothy