Liuli, the art of Chinese crystalware, first appeared in historical documents dating back 3,000 years, however little effort had been made to preserve its craftsmanship — but thanks to the efforts of Taiwanese film director Chang Yi and actress Loretta Yang, this long lost artform has at last been revived
Nearly three decades ago, esteemed Taiwanese film director Chang Yi and actress Loretta Yang devoted their lives to reviving the ancient Chinese art of liuli, or artistic crystalware. Often a tough journey over the years, the founders of Liuligongfang nonetheless persevered and have now published their latest series, A Touch Of Red.
Back in the mid-late 1980s, however, was a difficult time for Taiwan's film industry. Chang and Yang were finding it increasingly problematic to film what they wanted, so they decided to re-focus their attentions on an entirely different endeavour. Liuligongfang translates literally as 'crystal workshop', and the pair established their first liuli art workshop. Liuligongfang quickly became a well-established Chinese crystal art and cultural brand, using and developing the pâte-de-verre technique to revive this ancient lost art. Today, Liuligongfang has grown to become synonymous with Chinese crystal art, with Yang and Chang recognised as its modern pioneers.
None of this was achieved without risks and sacrifices (although these have since paid off handsomely, of course). With almost no contemporary resources or references from which to draw, Liuligongfang's founders took it upon themselves to revive the art of liuli, collecting information from books and historical documents.
Their research revealed a similar glass art creating technique from Egypt dating back 3,000 years and later carried into Europe. Following an exhibition in Japan and talking with local glass art artists, Chang and Yang also came to be convinced that liuli was first produced in the Han dynasty as mortuary objects. Eventually, they traced liuli to the Shang and Zhou dynasties, when a technique similar to pâte-de-verre was used to create bronze ware, and decided to use this technology to create their liuli art pieces as a link to Chinese history and culture.
This is a preview of the “Reviving A Lost Chinese Art Form" article from the August 2015 issue of Perspective magazine.
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