Jin Yongcai Yunnan, China

Distinguished Black Copper expert; born in Banqiao, Yunnan province. He is an honorable member of China Arts and Crafts Association and the vice-chairman of Yunnan Province Arts and Crafts Association. Jin Yongcai adopted Yunnan traditional silver inlaid black copper techniques from his master, Jiaru Li.

A winner of various prestigious awards, Jin Yongcai has been creating his masterpieces for over 30 years and is the sixth generation successor of Kunming City Intangible Cultural Heritage. In 2012, he was named as the “Representative Figure in the China Arts and Crafts Industry.”

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Q

Most Unforgettable Experience in Mastering the Art

A

The most unforgettable experience is my teacher passing down to me the secret formula of making black copper. I was shocked when he burned the piece of paper with the formula written on it 15 minutes after he gave it to me. I was told to memorize it by heart but there were many characters that I didn’t know. I remembered the shapes of the unfamiliar characters and, with the help of a dictionary, I was able to fully understand and memorize the secret formula after I got home.

Q

Basics and Time Required to Master the Art

A

I have two basic requirements for my apprentices: a good character and the spirit of perseverance. To do well in making silver-inlaid black copper also requires a person to be careful and patient. It usually takes about three months for a beginner to master one step of the procedure and three years to master the whole process. As the Chinese saying goes, the master teaches the trade but the apprentice’s skill is self-made. It will only take about ten years for some apprentices to become masters. But others can never be masters in their whole life. “Master” is just a title that should not be purposefully pursued. What matters is that one’s handicraft is recognized and approved by people from all walks of life.

Q

How to Incorporate Traditional Crafts into Modern Life

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Traditional handicrafts carry with them a rich history and culture and thus have a strong vitality. Handicrafts are so different from mechanical products that they are left with traces of the maker’s emotions, feelings and soul that cannot be replicated. Keeping traditional handicrafts alive requires the mastery of sophisticated skills to create products approved by the general public, the pursuit of innovation to keep up with the times and the constant refinement of skills. In addition, some sort of awareness campaign is also needed to promote the value of traditional handicrafts. In this way, traditional handicrafts will definitely survive in modern life.

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