Home to a profusion of precious traditional Chinese intangible cultural heritages, Chengdu is also the sole host city in China of the International Festival of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Sichuan provincial government and is held every two years.
Of the many heritage items in Chengdu, silver filigree is not as well-known as Shu Brocade and Shu Embroidery and not familiar to many people, though it has a history of thousands of years and is second to none in cultural importance and craftsmanship.
"Chengdu silver filigree is experiencing a decline because of the lack of large-scale production for commercial purposes, the dwindling number of the inheritors of the producing techniques," said Wang Xiaolu, manager of Chengdu Master Dao An Silver Filigree Workshop.
Chengdu silver filigree is one of the best traditional handicraft articles in China and a national-level ICH (Intangible Cultural Heritage) item. It is made of pure silver that is made into hair-thin threads that are filled, rolled, cast, carved and welded and then transformed into craftworks, using such techniques as filling, piling and weaving. The silver filigree products are noted for exquisite designs, complete structure and distinctive local features. It usually takes a few days or even several months to make a single piece.
The earliest record of Chengdu silver filigree can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (1, 600 BC - 1, 046 BC), when people had already developed skills in making decorative articles of silver filigree. In the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), Chengdu silver filigree was further developed and the central government even set up departments in charge of the production in Chengdu. As the skills became mature, Chengdu silver filigree evolved into a genre of artistic creation by the time some 1, 700 years ago.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 - 1911 AD), Chengdu silver filigree gradually spread to the whole country and formed unique local characteristics on the techniques. Techniques such as filling, piling, carving and weaving were widely used.
It prospered in Sichuan in the middle of Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911AD) and achieved super craftsmanship during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. Many famous silver filigree works continued to emerge, many of which becoming articles of tribute for the dignitaries.
Chengdu silver filigree craftworks have a wide range of ornamental and practical applications, including vases, compotes, smoker's sets and jewelries.
Chengdu Master Dao An Silver Filigree Workshop is set up with an aim to preserve and hand down the Chengdu silver filigree craftsmanship. It houses hundreds of silver filigree handicrafts, such as silver filigree paintings, jewelries and adornments.
Presently, Ms. Dao An is the only national-level inheritor of silver filigree craftsmanship in Chengdu. She started learning the art of silver filigree when she was very young. With the experience of 30 years, she founded this company where silver filigree products can be ordered and produced in Chengdu.