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Carving new life into Dalian's cultural heritage

By Zhang Xiaomin|chinadaily.com.cn|Updated: October 22, 2019


This pixiu (a lion-shaped beast from Chinese mythology which is believed to turn calamities into blessings) is made of abalone shells from Dalian of Liaoning, China and Australia, finished jewelry and gold. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Shell carving, a cultural heritage originating from Dalian in Liaoning province, is rejuvenating the craft by incorporating modern artistic techniques.

In order to better protect and preserve the intangible cultural heritage, the Xinzhaizi community of Dalian's Ganjingzi district established an art gallery with Jin Ashan, a master of Chinese arts and crafts as well as a representational successor of shell carving

It is open to the public free of charge, and invites artists from various areas to visit, participate through exchanges and carry out training activities.


This 6-meter-long version of the Nine Dragon Screen is made out of shells in Dalian, Liaoning province. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

The craftsmen create wonderful shell carvings as works of art through design, cutting, bonding, drilling, polishing and many other technical crafts.

In recent years, inspired by the importance of inheriting traditional artforms, local shell sculptors have learned skills from other skilled crafts such as jade carving, wood and stone carving, and improved the shell carving processes, including material selection, rough and fine embryo treatment, manual fine carving, rough grinding, polishing, three-dimensional sculpture and assembly. Through co-learning, new developments have been achieved.

As a coastal city surrounded by sea in three directions, Dalian benefits from a long coastline and rich marine resources. The various resources of shellfish provide a wealth of materials for the development of shell carving skills.


This ornament is made of a tridacna clam shell with shapes of seven dragons and other symbolic Chinese elements. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]


This 6-meter-long dragon boat is made by the stereo carving of shells from many different countries around the world. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]


This is a folding fan made of tortoise shell and 100 longevity characters of abalone shell, incorporating traditional Chinese culture. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]


Visitors discover shell carving works. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]


Jin Ashan, a master of Chinese arts and crafts and a representational successor of the intangible cultural heritage of Dalian shell carving, demonstrates how to make shell carvings to a visitor. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]