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Country Engravings

The Three Gorges of Yangtze River, where the ancient Ba and Chu people used to live and build their homes, have been the witness of the local people's industrious labor and numerous creations, which helped foster a unique culture and special living habits. Yichang, a portal of Central China's Hubei province, have been a collecting and distributing center of various northern cultures since ancient times, with many of its folk plastic arts dating back to a long time ago. The local folk artists, on the base of carrying on the customs of the Ba and Chu plastic artists, brought into being a number of country engravings of a variety of unique styles. In the early 1990s, Yichang was listed as "Home of Chinese Folk Arts". Since the country engravings of Yichang all feature good use of thick ink in the process of printing , these engraving works are hailed as "black peonies".

The folk engraving art of our country are always imbued with a strong local flavor and folk air, so is the case for the engraving works of Yichang, whose rough designs and delicate subjects vividly reflect the living habits and environment of the descendants of the Ba and Shu people.

The altitude of over 1,000 meters above the sea level has posed great difficulty to plant crops in the mountains; the corn is therefore the main grain crop there. Under such harsh living conditions, local people developed a special sentiment toward this crop. With their pens and brushes, the folk-engraving artists have recorded the special bond, reflecting it in their engraving works. Though most of the artists did not receive any professional training or have any sense of designing and configuration, they are greatly influenced by what they constantly see and hear about the folk plastic art as little children, which laid an important foundation for their learning and creating engraving works. Unrestricted by proportion or perspective, their engraving works feature a full, clear design and a complete folk aesthetics.

The initiator of engraving art in Yichang is Gao Xinzhang, and he is also the man who raised the concept of country engraving in China. For the artists, engraving may be only a hobby or habit, the appreciators, however, can not only catch a glimpse into the natural conditions and social customs of Yichang and areas around, but also feel the creators' strong passion for life and their strong desire in expressing their feelings about life.

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