From young apprentice to master craftman
Yu Xiannan, a craftsman from Taizhou, Zhejiang province, makes a bamboo chair. Yu has practiced this craft for 63 years. [Photo/hyxwnet WeChat]
Squatting in a corner of his small studio, Yu Xiannan holds a piece of whittled bamboo over a fire and bends it into shape to make a chair. The 77-year-old from Taizhou, Zhejiang province has been making furniture from the stems of bamboo plants in this way for more than 60 years.
His love for bamboo chair-making came from the tradition in the village where he lives, Fengqiu village in Taizhou's Huangyan district. The hillside village is surrounded by towering bamboo plants, which generated the tradition of making bamboo wares here.
At the age of 14, Yu started his career as a chair maker with his father. Even at this young age, he was thought diligent and gifted in his craft, once making 15 chairs in just five days. These chairs brought him 22.5 yuan ($3.25), he remembers, far more than the average earnings of other villagers.
Out of love and the decent earnings he has made from his craft, Yu has devoted 63 years to it, growing from a young apprentice to a skilled craftsman. So far, he has made more than 100,000 chairs of different sizes and shapes, and his work still enjoys great popularity for its outstanding durability, attractive appearance and ingenuity.
Though Yu said there's no need for a big workshop or high-end tools for bamboo chair-making, it is hard work and requires him to rise early and go to bed late each day. Dealing with bamboos for decades, his hands are riddled with calluses and scars. Bending down all day also causes soreness and ache to his waist.
Yu is disappointed by the decline of traditional crafts. "Modern arts and crafts obscure traditional ones. Young people are more willing to work in modern industries," he said.
He worries about who from the next generations will be willing to keep these traditional crafts alive, he said. However, he himself is still passionate about his work and hopes to stick to it for another decade.
Bamboo chairs and tables made by Yu enjoy great popularity for their utility and lightness. [Photo/hyxwnet WeChat]