On the Role of Stone Carving in the Construction of Landscape Projects

Stone carvings are art works carved on bluestones, gravels, granites, marbles and other materials. 2017-09-14

Stone carvings are art works carved on bluestones, gravels, granites, marbles and other materials. Chinese stone works date back to China’s Neolithic Age, such as the unearthed human head statues in Ci Shan ancient cultural relic in Wu’an, Hebei, as well as marble tiger and bird statues from Shang Dynasty.

The subjects of folk stone carving mainly stand out in the following three aspects:

1.Auspicious patterns.

2.Chinese opera characters, ancient heroes, myths and legends and daily life, such as the Fisherman, the Woodcutter, the Farmer, and the Scholar, Generals of the Yang Family.

3.Mascots and animals with propitious omen like lion, unicorn, phoenix, elephant, deer, crane, bats and twelve Chinese zodiac signs.

Folk handicrafts are a wonder in Chinese folk arts. Folk stone sculptures have been used in architectural ornaments, and they were especially popular in the periods of Ming and Qing dynasties. And stone carving has turned into a precious art due to the fact that it is now gradually fading away.

Stone Paifangs (memorial archways) are the most commonly seen folk stone-carving work in Chinese landscape engineering. Paifang, also known as a Pailou, is an ancient architectural style, directly developed from the Li-fang Gate (a gate set within residential areas for city management). Its shape and structure are related to Heng Door (a simply built shabby house), Wutou Gate (a blackhead gate) and Lingxing Gate (a latticework star gate). In the Mid-Ming Dynasty, gates were becoming more and more complicated in structure and also getting bigger and higher in shape, gradually evolving into Paifangs. Paifangs basically come in the form of one or two horizontal Efang (beams) between two longitudinal pillars with a plaque or openwork carvings embedded between the beams; the pillars need to be buried deep and supported by Jiagan stones (upholders on the ground) on each of the two sides. Huge Paifangs can be shaped in three horizontal beams between four longitudinal pillars or five horizontal beams between six longitudinal pillars. The shape and structure of a Paifang varies, and even the Dougong (a system of bracket arms inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam) which had been mostly avoided by local architects was acceptable. The bracket arms become the eaves of the roof.

The Dougong, Efang, Jiagan stones and the rooftop are the focus for carving in a Paifang. “Rong’en Stone Paifang” seated in Yupo, Zhongshan County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, for instance, is one of the most well-known featured ancient buildings in Guangxi. The Paifang was built by Chin-Shih (a successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations) Liao Shide in memory of his ancestors in 1752, before the Liao Clan Temple in the village. Covering an area of 10,30 square meters, the Paifang has four columns, three beams, five stories with a hip roof made of bluestones, 6,18 meters wide, 1,66 meters long, and 7,32 meters high, with circular relief, high relief and low relief all over.

The big and thick pillars stand on the plinth, supported by drum-shaped bearing stones on the front and the back. The front drum-shaped bearing stones of the middle pillars have carved lions; the main ridges on both ends of the hip roof in the middle beam have ornaments on roof ridge in the shape of a legendary animal; in the middle is a protective top; openwork lattice windows are shown in four Dougongs and the two Chinese characters “En Rong” in regular script are vertically engraved on the stone plague below the beam. High-relief and hollow-out slates between the beams have many exquisitely carved images of “two Chinese dragons frolicking with a pearl”, “two lions in pursuit of pearls”, “Kirin (a mythological auspicious animal) sending children”, “red phoenix in morning sun”, “eight celestials celebrating longevity” and “a fish leaping over the dragon gate”.

There are different forms of representation in different constructions in the technique of expression. Line cutting is applied on the sides of drum-shaped bearing stones to integrate with the pillars while high-relief or nearly circular relief is used on the slates between the beams to highlight “two Chinese dragons frolicking with a pearl” and “two lions in pursuit of pearls”. However, shallow relief is used in the four Dougongs to enrich the contents on the Paifang to make them stand out. The carving overall Paifang is fine and smooth and skilled, making it an exceptional piece of art. The Paifang was listed into the key culture relic protection sites by the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2000.

The second most commonly seen folk stone-carving work in Chinese landscape engineering is the lion statue. It is said that when Buddha Sakyamuni was born, he pointed one finger to the sky and another to the earth, and screamed like a lion roaring: “In heaven and on earth, I hold supremacy over all.” And since then, the lion has been mythologized and used to fight off evil spirits and protect human, becoming a symbol of the power of Buddhism. The lion is also known as the “king of beasts”, and people think it can be deterrent to beasts. The lion statues have been used to protect tombs to fight off the evil in ancient emperor mausoleums since the Eastern Han Dynasty. The lion pattern is also often decorated in Buddha’s mounts and temples. The most prominent official position Tai Shi and the deputy official position Shao Shi in the ancient official system are all connected to the lion in their pronunciation, as big lion is Da Shi in Chinese and little lion is Xiao Shi in Chinese, which are relatively homophonic to Tai Shi and Shao Shi. The pattern of big lion and little lion are used as a metaphor for senior officials, a symbol of wealth and power, more commonly seen in the carvings on folk building doors. The image of the lion has been integrated into the Chinese culture and has become a classic artistic image with the most national features and folk features, deeply loved by the people. It is said that when a lion and a lioness play together, their hair will be wrapped into a ball that gives birth to a lion baby.


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