Wood carving revival in Jiaxiang county
A craftsman carves patterns on a wooden comb at Zhou Guangsheng's factory in Jiaxiang county, Jining. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
The wood carving industry in Jiaxiang county, Jining dates back to the middle Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when a local family surnamed Yu fled to Anhui province, learned Anhui-style wood carving and went back to Jiaxiang to start their own business.
At that time, many carpenters in the northern area of the county started their career as apprentices of the Yu's.
In the past, most Jiaxiang wood carving works were furniture, plaques and screens that featured auspicious patterns and historical stories as well as calligraphy and paintings of celebrities.
As modern furniture gained popularity in contemporary home decorating, traditional wood carving furniture was withdrawn from the market and the ancient technique was once in danger of disappearing.
Zhou Guangsheng, a local villager who started to learn the wood carving technique at the age of 18, set up his own business against the declining trend in 2011, aiming to revitalize the Jiaxiang wood carving industry.
He started by crafting wooden combs, which has been a major breakthrough, and uses precious wood and traditional designs to produce high-end exquisite combs that are selling well on e-commerce platforms.
His company generated a sales revenue of 20 million yuan ($3.13 million) in 2021 and created more than 100 jobs for local villagers. The company is also working with Heze Special Education School to offer jobs to disabled people.
Due to the exquisite craftsmanship and his good reputation, Zhou's wooden combs have won many awards at domestic trade fairs over the years. The technique of making wooden combs has also been included in Jining's intangible cultural heritage list.