Yu Hongming was born in a bamboo craft family which had a history of 120 years about traditional bamboo carving. His grandfather Yu Yuanquan was good at building pavilions, terraces and towers. But he is more proficient at bamboo carving. Yu Hongming was born in 1947, but his father died when he was very young. At the age of 13, he began to learn bamboo wearing and bamboo craft from his cousin. He got a deep understanding of how to select and use bamboos after several years of bamboo wearing.
Yu Hongming said that bamboos could be fully used. Bamboos were edible. When the bamboo joints and the bamboo leaves grew out, that became green and young bamboos. The sun-facing bamboos were reddish brown. The tender bamboo is, the easier for them to be attacked by worms. But after being cut down, they were excellent materials for making hell notes. The bamboos grew up for 3 to 5 years; the bamboo poles were green with some white or white-cyan color. They were suitable for making bamboo weaving, furniture and agricultural implements. The bamboos grew up for 5 to 6 years with red-cyan color. They had a certain degree of flexibility and could be made as shoulder poles. Old bamboos were yellow-cyan and could be used for bamboo slips, also could be processed into printing papers. The old bamboos grew up for 12 years with dots, which were not easy to have worms and be broken. They were best for bamboo carving.
Bamboo carving, the first thing to do was to select materials. For materials selection, one should observe the look of bamboos and then built the shapes according to the nature forms of bamboos."Look, I give this work a name of Flexible snake. This was chosen when I found the special shape in the mountain, and then I slightly processed it after I took it back home." Yu Hongming pointed the root carving with some pride. The nature twist bamboo roots and bamboo joints were carved in a deep color of wood as if a python was crawling out of the hole and took on a strikingly nature look to make people feel a little frightened.
The great insight and understanding of the bamboo carving accumulated from several score years of bamboo carving. "for bamboo carving, it is very important to grasp the composition and proportion. After selecting the bamboo, we should draw the picture on the bamboo according to the conception and proportion. Then start to carve with the knife. The knife can not help you to carve what is in your mind. But the sense of bamboo carving's art is built by the scorper. That whether the works that you carve is vivid and lifelike or not is determined by the observation of the grass and flowers, the animal's postures and manners in daily life, the feeling of carving, also the accumulation of experience."
The new and fresh bamboos were easy to carve. But they should be carved in one go, otherwise, the bamboos tended to go mouldy and crack. After finishing the carving, then plane the bamboo carving smooth and polish with abrasive papers little by little. At last, brush the carving with gloss paint and close the whole works. Or melt some wax and put the bamboo carving in it, boil it for 3 or 5 minutes to prevent the bamboo carving from cracking and going mouldy and growing worms.
Have a Mind as Open as Bamboo - Very Modest
There was a works exhibition room in the second floor of his house. There displayed a lot of works about bamboo carvings. Except for the flying dragon and a little dragon and a peacock spreads its tail with prizes, there were many other exquisite and practical bamboo tools, such as bamboo cups and bamboo bowls. Delicate bamboo root carving and ostrich eggshell carving made people unable to tear themselves away from them.
Cutting power and carving skill where were the essence and foundation of bamboo carving art lies. The works The Flying Dragon was made by the round phyllostachys pubescens and was flying carved with consummate carving and subtle loops. The carving was in detail with the dragon holding the blue pearl in the mouth and also the dragon's whiskers were lifelike. The body of the dragon flied in circle with intelligence and beauty. Seeing it, people would forget all things around them. It took a week to finish that bamboo carving. The work embodied the painstaking efforts of Yu and his son, Yu Huihui.
"According to my original idea, the bamboo is round. The dragon goes around the bamboo just like vines wrap around trees. After I tell that idea to my son, my son suggests flying carving. Flying carving is more fascinating and more realistic."
It was difficult to do flying carve because the dragon body was lean. Thus it easily broke. First, Yu Hongming selected the bamboo, and then he drew on the bamboo according to the dragon shape proportionally. Then he carved with a scorper to build the art image of the dragon. At last, he sawed the flying carving of dragon into twist shape carefully.
The dragon scales was vivid. Dragon claws stretched powerfully. The gear line of the dragon fin was even in line thickness and also was consistent in space density. This difficult works was awarded "the golden prize" in the 5th Expo of Bamboo Culture Festival in China. Later, though many people paid a high price to buy the works, all were refused by Yu. He especially made a glass cabinet to place his works of "flying dragon", By doing so, it would encourage himself to build the cause of bamboo carving forward.
"Xianning was a town of phyllostachys pubescens. But how many local people really know the magical effect of bamboos? Extracting juices from bamboos has a good effect to quell fevers and low the blood pressure. It can be used as pharmaceuticals. Also bamboo can be refined bamboo fibers for weaving cloth. Bamboo carving is the same as computer typing, which only uses some part of its powerful functions. Anji County in Zhejiang province has a high development in bamboo products processing and forms a big bamboo products trade market. I really hope that Xianning would develop in the usage of bamboo like Anji." Yu Hongming watched the bamboos all over the mountain with full hope of the future. (Written by Du Peiqing and Wan Mo)