Tue, Nov 12, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Award recognizes master carver

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:Yeh Ching-yi’s carvings can be found around the world and he has taken part in the renovation of a castle in Japan recognized as a UNESCO site

By Dennis Xie  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun, back left, toasts Yeh Kuang-chou, back second left, the eldest son of 82-year-old master woodcarver Yeh Ching-yi, front in wheelchair, and Yeh Ching-yi’s wife, back center, at the 13th National Crafts Achievement Awards in Taipei on Saturday.

Photo: CNA

Yeh Ching-yi (葉經義), an 82-year-old master carpenter and carver, was honored with the National Craft Achievement Award on Saturday for his contributions to Taiwanese woodcarving.

Yeh was 15 when he began learning the craft from Su Shui-chin (蘇水欽), master of the Quanzhou carving style.

Just two months into his apprenticeship, he displayed his artistic gifts in his debut work — wooden figures for the Daitian Temple (代天宮) in Kaohsiung representing characters from the classical Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Yeh’s carvings, which are known for their realism, combine the fundamental elements of the style with his own distinctive flair.

His work, including statues of Buddha, temple decorations, Chinese screens, flowers, birds and shrines, can be found around the world.

Yeh’s eldest son, Yeh Kuang-chou (葉光洲), received the award from Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) on behalf of his father, who was in a wheelchair next to him, as he has speech and mobility problems.

Cheng thanked the craftsman for showing the world the beauty of Taiwanese woodcarvings.

“A few years ago, my father told me that his biggest regret in life was not having won this award yet, but today his wish has come true, which makes him extremely happy, although he is not able to say so,” Yeh Kuang-chou told the audience at a ceremony hosted by the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute.

Thanks to Yeh Ching-yi’s work on several reconstruction projects on historical relics, many old temples and buildings have been given a second life, such as the Five Concubines Temple (五妃廟) and the Wang Clan Ancestral Temple (王姓大宗祠) in Tainan, the City God Temple (舊城城隍廟) in Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District (左營) and the Longshan Temple (龍山寺) in the Fengshan District (鳳山), the Lin Family Mansion and Garden in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋) and the Red House Theater (紅樓劇場) in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area.

Yeh Ching-yi’s reputation extends beyond Taiwan. In 1991, he was invited by Shimizu Corp, a Japanese architectural and civil engineering firm, to help restore the throne, bed and litter of the Ryukyu Kingdom rulers who lived in Shurijo Castle in what is now Naha, Okinawa.

The remains of the castle were largely destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa in World War II, but a restoration project begun in the early 1990s to rebuild the structures and interiors.

The stone walls and building foundations of the castle are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Yeh Ching-yi’s work at the castle, along with several Japanese temples, helped raise the global profile of Taiwanese woodcarving.

“Most people only know that the main pillar used in the reconstruction of the main hall of Shurijo castle in 1992 was made from Taiwanese cypress grown in Yilan County, but no Taiwanese know that the throne, bed and litter displayed in the castle were also made by a Taiwanese craftsman,” Yeh Kuang-chou said.

“Not even Japanese [know that], because they all think the works were done by craftsman from Japan,” he said.

Sadly, seven of the rebuilt castle structures, including the main hall, were destroyed in a fire on Oct. 31, he added.

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