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The other day I went to an art gallery near Yongdingmen for a painting exhibition. To my pleasant surprise, an exhibition of models of old Beijing architecture was also on display. The exquisite diminutive pavilions, towers, palace halls and folk dwellings were amazing. I was so eager to know who made the delicate miniatures that I paid a visit to the artist, Zhao Dianming, soon after the exhibition.

Zhao, a 67-year-old Beijing native, seems destined to be a carpenter. When he was young, his father expected his only son to take up carpentry, a craft that could ensure his living. After eight years of schooling, Zhao was employed as a carpenter making mechanical models in a factory attached to Beijing Iron and Steel Research Institute. His training supervisor was very fond of ancient architecture and often took him to imperial gardens and old temples. Gradually, Zhao developed an interest in Chinese ancient architectural styles.

Zhao is an excellent carpenter. Over years he has dealt with various types of woodwork and demonstrated superb craftsmanship. Wherever he goes, he takes along his woodworking tools. He is adroit at not only mechanical modeling but also building wood bridges, houses and coffins.

Since 1985, Zhao has devoted all his leisure time to ancient building modeling. For years now he has saved the money he usually spent on drinking to buy books and materials on ancient Chinese architecture. When time allowed, he sawed wood into match- sized pillars, beams, lintels and eaves to make his miniature models. Later, Zhao joined the Beijing Association for Ancient Architecture. At one session, he showed several miniature pavilions he made to participants. Experts on ancient architecture were full of praise. Professor Shan Shiyuan said, "I have studied ancient buildings for many years and seen numerous real gardens and gardens on painting. But I have never seen such exquisite wood miniatures." He encouraged Zhao to continue with his work and wished him great success.

The professor's words were a tremendous encouragement to Zhao. Ever since, he has crafted his own special versions of numerous old Beijing sites, including the ancient shopping street in Ming and Qing dynasties, archways, Dongyue Temple, Heavenly Prayer Hall in the Temple of Heaven, Springtime Pavilion in the Summer Palace, the Grand Theatre Stand, courtyard houses and city gate towers. His perfect scaled-down recreations have attracted numerous visitors from both home and abroad.

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