China News Network Guizhou along the river, May 5 Topic: Guizhou mask female carver: The tip of the knife shows the ancient charm

Written by Zhou Yanling

Puppet opera, known as the "living fossil of Chinese drama", is one of the oldest cultures in China, with unique aesthetic value and meaning, and is still circulating in Yanhe Tujia Autonomous County, Tongren City, Guizhou Province. Unlike traditional operas such as Peking Opera, where people wear masks with different shapes and exaggerated expressions, Yang Yunxia is one of the few female sculptors of puppet masks in China.

When I met Yang Yunxia, she was in her studio in Yanhe County, busy carving customer-made masks. Left-handed knife, right-handed hammer, in the rhythmic beating sound of "knock knock", the outline of the wooden mask fixed by Martin appears.

The mask has an important position in the puppet and is the main prop to express the personality characteristics and facial demeanor of the characters in the puppet opera. Yang Yunxia said that the materials and engraving methods of the mask are quite exquisite, and people should not be allowed to carve it as they wish.

The picture shows the mask carved by Yang Yunxia. Photo by Zhou Yanling

The reporter noticed that every time a knife was carved, Yang Yunxia would pick it up and take a closer look, and each knife carved down, as if it was injecting spiritual energy into the mask, and the mask became more vivid under the tip of the knife.

Carving a mask, Yang Yunxia belongs to the "half-way monk" and breaks into the ranks. Originally practicing medicine, after seeing that her elderly father gradually lost her passion for carving due to the death of her relatives, in order not to let the ancestral mask carving skills be lost, and break the custom of "passing on men without passing on women", she learned mask carving with her father in 2005.

"In addition to having a certain talent, making a mask also requires a lot of physical labor, which is also the biggest difficulty I encountered in learning to carve." Yang Yunxia said frankly that her father would fix the mask with his legs when carving, and because of his low strength, he needed to carve wood in a specially made wooden groove.

Yang Yunxia shows the mask she carved. Photo by Zhou Yanling

Since there is no drawing foundation, Yang Yunxia only draws a rough sketch with chalk on wood before each carving, "Many people will concentrate on the design and drawing of small samples on wood when making puppet masks, and I carve them out with impressions and intuition through the characteristics and production methods of puppet masks stored in my mind." ”

Qin Tong with a crooked mouth and a wrinkled nose, a majestic and courageous pioneer, and Qiu Gu Po with thin eyebrows and small eyes... A piece of wood becomes a vivid and expressive mask, Yang Yunxia needs to go through more than 6 processes in 20 processes: extraction, billet, carving, polishing, coloring and lacquering, and more than 80 carving knives of different models.

"Kaishan and Crooked Mouth Qin Tong are the most difficult to carve, and the silhouette, expression, and color of the mask are all more complex among many masks." Yang Yunxia picked up a mighty mask and said that color is the finishing touch of the mask, which can make the face of the mask more vivid.

The picture shows Yang Yunxia carving a mask. Photo by Zhou Yanling

On the walls and glass cases of Yang Yunxia's studio, there are masks of different shapes, some with kind faces, some majestic, some fierce and vicious... Each mask is both simple and psychedelic, looking at the shining godly mask, as if a mysterious force has traveled from ancient times.

The picture shows the bookmark of the mask element made by Yang Yunxia. Photo by Zhou Yanling

Since 2005, Yang Yunxia has carved thousands of masks, and it is not clear from the works she carved masks that they were written by women.

The picture shows the mask earrings made by Yang Yunxia. Photo by Zhou Yanling

Due to the complexity of the mask carving, the carvers were scarce. As a provincial non-genetic inheritor in Guizhou, Yang Yunxia, in order to better inherit her skills, has innovatively developed pendants, bookmarks, car hanging ornaments, key chains, earrings and other cultural and creative products with mask elements, making traditional handicrafts a saleable commodity.

The picture shows the mask pendant made by Yang Yunxia. Photo by Zhou Yanling

"Noodles have the meaning of seeking auspiciousness, and many people will come to buy them." Yang Yunxia, who has been with the mask for nearly 20 years, said that she hopes to let more people understand the culture of the mask through cultural creativity, like the mask, and pass on the mask carving skills. (End)