Thursday, April 28, 2016

History of Chinese Folding Screens



History of folding screens starts in China, where they appeared in the VII century. These sophisticated pieces of furniture were made in wide range of sizes, from extremely large oversized folding screens that were used in spacious palaces, to miniature decorative screens that could comfortably fit on a tabletop. 

folding screens used as room dividers was constructed from several panels attached to each other. The most popular in VII century China room dividers were six or eight panels folding screens. Chinese masters are famous for their complex ancient lacquer application techniques. 

Most known technique used in creation of folding screens - "naciju" - is a labor intensive multi layered lacquer application technique with gold leaf inserted into the lacquer on the different levels. Masters applied up to 30 layers of lacquer and each level had a unique gold leaf pattern. As a result - a magically glowing surface of the screen that exudes energy. Another popular unique decorative technique used by Chinese artisans in creation of folding screens is dimensional carving on the clay surface.

Folding screens that are made by using this method are known as
 Coromandel screens. Each panel of coromandel screens was made from wood and covered with many layers of soft clay followed with multiple layers of lacquer. Then opulent designs with landscapes, flora and fauna motives, and calligraphy writing, were skillfully engraved in a different relief (high and low) into the screens panels, creating a breathtaking three dimensional effect. The Coromandel screens were then painted and embellished with gold or silver leaf. 

The unique screen making techniques passed from generation to generation and are widely used and popular today.


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