Documentary on Chinese handicrafts hits Australian screens
Published: Aug 01, 2022 06:35 PM
A documentary titled Magical Craftsmanship of Suzhou rolled out across theaters in Australia's Sydney and Melbourne over the weekend, giving locals an up-close look at how ancient handicrafts continue to color modern Chinese life.

The film, presented by director Sun Zengtian, explores iconic handicrafts through the eyes of 12 veterans in Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu Province.

"Through the entanglement of art and people, we reveal the core of the craftsman's spirit - open and inclusive, meticulous dedication, self-cultivation, respect for nature and people, and eternal innovation," said Sun.

From detailed silk Song Dynasty (960-1279) brocades, furniture from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and intricate jade carvings, the film explores how ancient tradition has continued to occupy a central role in modern-day Chinese culture.

One of the masters, Wang Xiaowen, began his journey as a lantern maker at just 10 years of age. At the age of 75, Wang's story told by the documentary explores how only through a lifetime of dedication can the art be truly realized.

"There are only two types of lanterns, those you make for the world, and those you make for yourself. The latter will always have a place in your heart," said Wang, evidencing the driving force of passion behind his work.

The movie also explored the conflict artisans face in the modern world where productivity and mass production edge out "dated" practices.

Caitlin Nugent, a 26-year-old teacher from Sydney, was in attendance at one of the documentary's showcase screenings. She told the Xinhua News Agency on Sunday that she was most drawn in by the process behind silk brocades. 

"The silk weaving and the engineering and the mathematics behind the patterns that they're weaving was really interesting," she said.

Having never been to China, she said the movie added kindling to her dream to one day make the trip.

Also in attendance was Sydney-based writer Peter Hannam. He told Xinhua the film gave insight into the importance of passing on traditional skills.

"So it seems like there's a kind of a narrow window to keep those skills vibrant, and passed on, and to continue to recruit future [generations]."

In 2014, Suzhou was acknowledged as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art in recognition of its revitalization of ancient art practices.