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China Information - China Folk Culture and Art


Cloisonne, with a history dating back over 500 years, is well-known traditional enamelware. It is typically called the "Blue of Jingtai" as blue is the
dominant color adopted for enameling and Cloisonne became prevalent during the reign of Jingtai (1450-1456) in the Ming Dynasty. Owing to its
brilliant colors and splendid designs, Cloisonne has been highly appraised both in China and abroad.
The making of Cloisonne involves quite elaborate and complicated process, usually seven steps should be taken.
The first step is frame making. Copper is the usual material for making the frame, because copper is very flexible and can easily be hammered to
the shape to the likings of the craftsman. And copper is durable material for a frame. What is important in this step is that the coppersmith needs
to make a well-shaped frame with even weight and thickness.
The second step is to adhere very narrow copper strips onto the frame. The craftsman has a well-prepared blueprint by hand, and he can make
necessary adjustments based on his own experience. To make major changes, the craftsman needs to consult with the designer.
The third step is coloring. The color or enamel is called "falang" in Chinese. Like a painter mixing the colors, the craftsman adjusts the color by
adding different minerals. The change of colour is a result of different chemical changes. The craftsman then applies the colors on the little
compartment formed by the copper strips.The fourth step is firing. Put the article into an oven, with a certain temperature (about 800℃). After a
while, take the article out, it will turn red. Put it aside and let it cool naturally. The color or enamel in the little compartments will sink. That requires
a re-filling. The fifth step is re-firing. Re-fire the article until the enamel in the little compartment is finally filled evenly.
The sixth step is to polish. Polish the article with emery and then with a whet stone and finally with a hard carbon to get luster and smoothness on
the surface. The last step is gilding. It is to put the finished article in the fluid of silver or gold, charged with electric current, to gild evenly and then a
slight polish will be the final touch to the finished product.
We may say, the technique of cloisonne is used not only the bronze crafts, but also the porcelain crafts, meanwhile, fetching in plenty of traditional
and carving technique, which is the combination of Chinese traditional arts.
In Beijing, the cradle of Cloisonne, most shops in hotels as well as tourist stores sell Cloisonne articles, which can be as big as sacrificial
utensils, screens tables and chairs, and as small as chopsticks, earrings, candy boxes, toothpicks and smoking tools. They are works of art as
well as articles with use value. Handicraftsmen have of late developed a multi-coloring technique for the making of Cloisonne which has resulted
in more refined and gorgeous products.


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