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Tracing a golden legacy

Updated: 2024-02-27 07:51 ( CHINA DAILY )
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Zhang Yongzhen and his apprentice Xi Wen are two master artisans of cloisonne at the Beijing Gongmei Group. JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY

Future relics

Zhang calls cloisonne goods "treasures that will be seen as cultural relics 1,000 years later".

"Cloisonne, with its flamboyant styles and vibrant colors, was initially primarily intended for the royal family. The objects' bodies were usually made of copper or bronze, which were expensive materials that could only be owned by royal families in the past," Zhang explains.

He adds that jingtailan is one of the Yanjing Eight Palace Handicrafts, which also include embroidery, and jade and ivory carving. (Yanjing is an old name for Beijing.)

Zhang says he didn't realize these treasures' value when he began to learn cloisonne at around age 17, when his father sent him to a vocational school to study the technique. His dad spent his whole life working on the first step of making cloisonne items — hammering copper or bronze into the objects' shapes.

Zhang instead learned the more intricate step of using thin metal wires to outline patterns and designs on the surfaces.

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