Craftsman dedicates over 40 years to Miao silver jewelry in SW China’s Guizhou

(People's Daily Online09:19, August 10, 2022


Photo shows Wu Shuigen making a piece of Miao silver jewelry. (People’s Daily/Chen Junyi)

Wu Shuigen, a 56-year-old silver jewelry craftsman from Taijiang county, southwest China’s Guizhou Province, has dedicated himself to making silver jewelry ornaments for more than four decades.

To make a piece of Miao silver jewelry, the first step is to prepare the raw materials. During this process, the craftsman will melt the silver, cool the liquid, pour it into a rectangular mold to make a silver bar, and then beat the silver bar with a hammer until its thickness is similar to that required for chopsticks, introduced Wu, the eighth-generation inheritor of the craft of making Miao silver jewelry based in Shidong township, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou.

The Miao silver jewelry is a state-level intangible cultural heritage in China.

The next step is to turn the silver bar into silver threads, which can be as thin as hair if it is necessary, Wu added.

Wu has built over 10,000 molds in different patterns. Some patterns have strong ethnic characteristics and some are fashionable patterns.

“Silver threads and silver bars are the most basic materials in making silver jewelry ornaments and carving decorative patterns,” Wu said.

“After the patterns are created, I’ll then use a chisel to edit the patterns so that they become more polished and lifelike,” said Wu, as he begins to carve a flower on a piece of silver jewelry.

Wu has made more than 100 types of chisels with which he can carve almost any kind of pattern. “Because I use chisels a lot, I can quickly choose the most suitable one that I should use when I get ready to carve a pattern,” Wu explained.

Wu is aware that human labor can be replaced with machines throughout the process of making silver jewelry ornaments. However, he said as he has kept all patterns in his mind, he can make whatever comes to his mind quickly, adding that it is creativity that makes his works irreplaceable.

The artisan expressed that the inheritance of the craft is a challenge for him. “I’ve passed on my skills to 17 apprentices, but a lot of them are not engaged in the business,” said Wu, adding, “I’m always ready to teach the craft to young people as long as they want to learn it.”

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)