​From chef to craftsman, sculpturing continues

(chinadaily.com.cn)| Updated : 2022-04-06

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Wang Lingtao creates a clay sculpture. [Photo/Jinan Daily]

At a handicraft workshop in Huaiyin district, Jinan, a series of vivid and delicate clay statues are on display, ranging from lovely Bing Dwen Dwen, the mascot for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, to all kinds of tableware.

These clay sculptures were created by Wang Lingtao, a 44-year-old craftsman from Jinan, Shandong province.

Wang used to be a chef at a five-star hotel who excelled at carving intricate patterns or designs into food. "When I worked at the hotel, I made most of my carvings out of fruits and vegetables like radishes and cucumbers. But they have a short shelf life and will decompose in a matter of days," Wang explained.

Then he abandoned his well-paid job in the hotel and traveled throughout the country to research and study, eventually settling on clay sculpture techniques as his field of specialization.

With more than a decade of experience in creating and designing clay sculptures, his works are usually inspired by traditional Chinese cultural themes.

"I have loved traditional Chinese culture since I was a child. When I tried to combine Confucian culture with clay sculptures, I received a lot of praise. I am more determined to promote the art this way," Wang said. He created a set of statues themed on Confucius and his 72 famous pupils, which received a series of awards.


A close-up of the clay sculptures created by Wang Lingtao [Photo/Dazhong News]

Wang produced unique clay sculpture techniques and expressions showcasing Jinan culture by digging into folk culture and craft methods with significant regional intangible cultural heritages.

With Wang's efforts, the Jinan clay sculpture technique was recognized as a district-level intangible cultural heritage project in 2018, and he became the clay sculpture technique's inheritor.

A group scene of 168 persons, which wonderfully replicates people enjoying traditional Chinese opera at a cross-talk archway in Jinan during the Republic of China period (1912-1949), is one of his most recent popular artworks.

The artwork features people performing shows, vendors selling their products, and people eating sunflower seeds and clapping during a cross-talk show.

"I am still learning and creating, hoping to promote the Jinan clay sculpture technique and help expose Shandong culture to more people," Wang said. He often opens public training classes to teach children and teenagers how to make the traditional clay sculptures.


Wang Lingtao teaches children how to make clay sculptures. [Photo/Jinan Daily]