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Feature: Ancient shipbuilding sails into future
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  • http://english.dbw.cn  2017-06-12 13:28:08
     

    On a simple workbench, a one-meter-long model boat is nearing completion: the waxed redwood body shines in the sun and the hoisted sails look as if the ship is about to set off.

    Liu Xixiu is modest about his work, and says it is not "perfect" as he points out some tiny parts he manually makes are not delicate enough.

    "I will take this ship to a fair in Taiwan, and a model contest in Shanghai. It has to be perfect," says Liu.

    Liu is from Zhangwan Township in the city of Ningde, southeast China's Fujian Province.

    Zhangwan is home to craftsmen who make ancient Chinese junks and battened sails called "Fuchuan," meaning Fujian vessels.

    In 2010, the watertight-bulkhead process used for Fuchuan vessels was inscribed in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding by UNESCO.

    Saturday is Chinese cultural heritage day.

    Liu's ancestors moved to the small township around 600 years ago from the south of Fujian and the family have built ships ever since. He is the 20th generation of shipbuilders.

    Liu's 30-square-meter studio, a size of half a badminton court, is packed with planks of wood and saws, drills and hand planes.

    The studio is on the roof of his two-story house, 100 meters away from Zhangwan Shipbuilding Plant.

    "I often played there when I was young. My father used to be head of the plant," he says, looking at the plant through his studio window.

    He liked woodworking when he was younger, which he attributes to his home environment. After graduating from high school in 1976, he worked at his father's plant as an apprentice.

    "We didn't have textbooks. All the skills were just passed down," Liu recalls.

    Being a quick learner, he became master in just three years, much quicker than his peers. He later taught himself ship design.

    Fuchuan were used along the maritime Silk Road that linked China, Southeast Asia and Western countries.

    With modern shipbuilding and the rise of metal vessels, the wooden Fuchuan gradually lost their sails.

    "We built over 200 vessels every year in the 1970s and 80s, drawing customers across China's coastal provinces, but now, few orders come," he says, adding that none of his three children are interested in continuing the family tradition.

    Following the inclusion of the watertight-bulkhead process into the national intangible cultural heritage list in 2008 and UNESCO's protection efforts in 2010, Liu sees some hope.

    At the plant, a 44-meter long and 12-meter wide vessel had been completed. The ship will be delivered to a local cultural company to be used for display and tourism. A research association on Fuchuan has also been established.

    "There are not many orders for big ships, but there are more for small ones -- ship models," he says, adding that some companies have offered to hire him as model designer.

    Liu says Fuchuan sounds like "fortune" in Chinese, and sails symbolize "a smooth path to success," drawing numerous company and entrepreneur clients longing for commercial success.

    At the right side of his studio sits a port, where the maiden voyages of many ships start.

    "I don't remember how many new vessels have sailed from there, but I'm sure there will be more," he says, looking over the port through the window.

    Author:    Source:xinhua    Editor:Yang Fan

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