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Hello! New Member

Carl R.

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Hi Carvers All!


I have been whittling for a long time, but only sporadically and almost in a guilty way, kind of cartoon figures cut into sticks while camping. I started carving pieces for a creche for my wife, once per year at Christmas (for 2 years), but poorly and frustratingly. She, in turn, has bought tools for me as gifts, and now I'm getting more involved. Be forewarned, I never write a little, always a lot.


I teach Chinese literature and language at a liberal arts college in Texas. Part of my training has been an immersion into the world of Chinese calligraphy, part of which is carving Chinese seals -- which is to say I have practiced Chinese calligraphy with guidance but never seal carving until recently. I have been teaching Chinese calligraphy for a number of years and have eventually insisted that my students design seals as part of the course, with the option of carving one as one of their required projects. All Chinese calligraphers learn to carve seals (which usually means just the design on the face and an inscription on the side). And since I've learned a little bit about seal carving, I've gotten more into carving.


Also interested in carving dragons. Chinese dragons are friendly, bulbous-nosed and a tad goofy-looking, at least the ones I'm interested in. They also have a powerful symbolic reference that no one seems to understand definitively. While in China I ask people what the image of the twin dragons and flaming pearl represents, partly just to practice my language skills, because everyone has an opinion but no one really knows. (I do, but I'm not telling.)


I'm also interested in Celtic images and text (uncial, insular), as of course, eventually, carving Chinese characters into display pieces. I believe Celtic cultures share certain features with East Asian cultures, whether by connections or coincidence, or simply cultural choices. When in Taiwan 30 years ago met a fellow who was leading a school on preserving the tradition of carving into bamboo, a craft he was very earnest and sincere about. It seems very difficult but also beautiful.


So, in summary, I want to practice carving because of the love of the wood, the connections to cultural heritage, to practice manual dexterity, and for joy.



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Welome to the forum. Nice to have you here.


looking forward to your creations.


As for the pearl/fireball the Dragon plays with: As the immage of an object in conection with the dragon turns up at about the same time Buddhism was introduced in China; I would claim that it is the pearl of wisdom.


Celtic influence in chinese culture should not be too surprising when considering that the oldest surviving "Tartan" (besides the one from the salt-mines in Austria) was found in China's North West.


Just my couple of cents,..... LOL

Best regards, Kurt

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Thanks for the welcome Tony and Kurt, and sundry viewers --


Kurt, I think you're right about the Buddhist source, but I see it as a very large cosmic concept, bigger than Buddhism, if there can be such a thing. (This website shows what I mean -- not very clear analysis http://honoluluacademy.org/art/exhibitions/5196-flamingpearl). And I also suspect connections between East Asia and Celts (the old tartan and its apparently celtic wearer in Tarim Basin, the dispersal of jade axe-heads called "celts" through Celtic areas, Siberia and China, and the dolmens of Korea, and the little blue-eyed Chinese girls I saw in Quanzhou in 1987 (actually probably from Arab traders who stayed)). If there are direct connections they are very very old, but one can actually walk from one place to the other. What intrigues me are the flowing designs (Dunhuang divas and the lettering in Book of Kells and such) and similarities of poetry as social practice--which I hope to research seriously, none of which is real solid evidence to skeptics (though that tartan-mummy shows nearness of contact if nothing else). Curiously, Wales has a dragon on its flag--as does Bhutan (and Malta). You sound well-informed, Kurt. I envy your Hong Kong setting. Do you ever get a sight of the craftsmen who carve the temple columns and such? Maybe a lost art in Hong Kong. Do you ever see carved characters in bamboo? Back to carving -- I have a LOT to learn!! Carl.

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Absolutely; dragons are some of the few things that seem to be universally present in virtually every culture. The name Bhutan denotes by itself “Thunder Dragon”.


While I don't have formal education, I have always been fascinated by symbols and their use in different cultures.

As a tour guide (17 years here in Asia) specializing in comparative belief systems and trying to make sense of them, I was extremely lucky not only to read about all those things, but often come in actual physical contact with it. My ideas today are derived largely from word of mouth and not from text-books. Hence I might sometimes go on a rant that is quite far removed from what the textbooks say.


People have gotten around much more than we give them credit for today, so traditions have too. With that I found very traditional customs from central Europe (Berchtenlauf or Krampus) again In Central China, with the only difference being that in China the original meanings are still intact (places where outsiders could as well be regarded as coming from Mars, not too long ago). The Mummies of Urumchi wear tartans, yet have partially Japanese DNA, or the fact that only the third Chinese emperor is ever shown with some kind of Mongoloid features..... etc......

I'm still bewildered by the statements about some of the "Unknown" pictograms in the Americas, when even a layperson like me, can recognize them at first sight as Shang-script (or at least something close to it).


The Devas as an idea has most likely spread to Europe with the Language, and hence the similarity in form and shape and in your special interest style of writing, on both sides (East and West). I would not be too surprised for you to find exact replications of not only meanings but even sounds.


The tradition on bamboo-carving and the bamboo chops are fading. What is seen today in Hong Kong is a mere shadow of this art and usually highly commercialized.



As I have gotten into cabbing and carving only recently, I paid very little attention to the craftsmanship and unfortunately today, a lot of the new creations are nothing but molds of former creations. The majority of temples simply can't afford to keep highly specialized craftsmen on the payroll.


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I lived in China for 10 months two years ago and most of my time there was spent in the art community. One man there carved some incredible bamboo pieces with animals running around on vines. This was in Nanning where there are fewer carvers than in some of the other areas but there were a few masters. Fastinating to watch and impossible for me to even think that I could ever be that good. My best friend there has a shop where he sells stone carvings and he displayed some of my simple mushroom carvings on stamp blanks. Some people actually wanted to buy them but if they showed a great deal of interest I just gave them away. It was a fasinating 10 months but because of the sheer numbers of people crammed into a fairly small area I have no desire to go back. lol


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Thanks for welcome and comments. I was not much of an observer of carving in China and Taiwan--just admirer. Did live next door to a basket weaver -- his full-time job. A load o bamboo would come in a truck and he'd be up all night cutting the green bamboo into long thin laths with a long triangular-profile knife. Now I know he was honing it with a water stone. Sharp and heavy. After slicing the laths he and his family would weave baskets for a week or two, load a truck and then start again. in 1987 in Quanzhou saw some columns and beams being carved for a renovation of a Taoist temple. Quanzhou has 200 different religious institutions housed in a small central area, but now with sky-scrapers don't know what's left. That temple was all wooden.


Interesting that you were able to connect so well.



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