A century-old copper and aluminum casting “artist” in Minxian County, Gansu: the work of the soul makes copper no longer a cold metal

A century-old copper and aluminum casting “artist” in Minxian County, Gansu: the work of the soul makes copper no longer a cold metal
In late April, Jiang Shengping, a copper and aluminum hand-sand foundry in Minxian County, Dingxi City, Gansu Province, showed his apprentices the old craft of casting. The picture shows the scene of the old craft professor.Photo by Chen Xin

Chinanews.com, Lanzhou, April 28th (Chen Xin and Cui Huan) A piece of copper has been “tempered” by craftsmen and transformed into exquisite handicrafts. In Minxian County, Dingxi City, Gansu Province, generations of foundry craftsmen have forged history with ancient manual techniques. The copper-aluminum foundry casting process here is a representative old craft in the local area.

In Min County, Qingshui Village, Qingshui Town is the most famous for this technique. It has a history of more than 600 years. It is a typical representative of smelting and casting techniques and a “living fossil” for the study of pure hand-crafted casting techniques.

Jiang Shengping, a copper and aluminum hand-sand foundry, is well-known in Qingshui Town. At the age of 55 this year, he is a superb coppersmith. “In 1984, that is, when I was 16 years old, I learned this craft from my grandfather.” Jiang Shengping said that he has worked for nearly 40 years, and he himself has a special affection for copper.

The picture shows the finished product of copper and aluminum casting.Photo by Cui Huan

“I am the second generation, and my son is the third generation.” Jiang Shengping briefly summed up the inheritance of the family business in two sentences. For him, copper and aluminum craftsmanship is not only a kind of inheritance, but also a process of constantly excavating the memories buried in his blood. In Jiang Shengping’s view, traditional skills need to get along with them day and night. Making molds is the most difficult link. It takes two or three years for ordinary people to master it, and a lot of technical practice is required.

“As a craftsman, you should practice your skills well and do your work beautifully. But to become an all-round craftsman, you need years of meditation and practice.” Jiang Shengping said that the inheritance of copper and aluminum casting technology is mostly carried out by teachers and apprentices. Oral teaching, hands-on teaching.

“There are more than a dozen processes in the production of molds, mold repairs, engraving, mold closing, casting, polishing, etc., and each process uses different tools for decoration and carving.” In addition, it requires patience, meditation and perseverance. They need to use their hands, but also their hearts, so that each work can have vitality and be called a work of the soul.

It is worth mentioning that the craftsmen did not have design drawings when making the molds, and the dimensions of the utensils were all in their heads. The formula of the mold skin and lining, the dryness and wetness of the raw materials, when to carve the pattern, how to rinse the charcoal water, and the mastery of the casting thickness of the utensils all depend on one’s own perception and feeling.

Because of this, every piece of work is different, even if it is made of the same style and pattern, it will have its own characteristics due to the different moods, perceptions, and angles of the craftsmen when carving, conveying the beauty of handwork.

There are many products of Qingshui copper and aluminum casting, including large (dai) pots, fire pots, braziers, pillar bases, large bells, incense burners, buckets, etc., but the most typical products are mainly large pots. These cauldrons are all in Tibetan style. The patterns on them are mainly Tibetan auspicious eight treasure patterns and traditional Chinese dragon patterns. The products are also mainly sold to Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Guizhou and other ethnic areas.

Tibetan herdsmen are very fond of copper pots cast by Qingshui. They usually buy them back and scrub them clean, then fill them with ghee, fried noodles, etc., and place them in the most prominent places in their homes. They are not only exquisite decorations, but also a symbol of wealth and family status.

“The unique value of handmade utensils is uniqueness, and there will never be a second piece that is exactly the same.” Jiang Shengpin said that another major feature of copper and aluminum works is that they are not oxidized, rust-free, and can be preserved forever.

A craftsman, a craftsman. How to make copper no longer a cold metal? In the process of creation for many years, Jiang Shengping has accumulated more experience through practice. He realized that copper-aluminum foundry casting needs to innovate on the basis of tradition, so that it can develop in the direction of arts and crafts products. Based on this, in order to develop and expand the copper-aluminum casting industry, he established a copper-aluminum casting professional cooperative in 2019, which has successively led more than 300 households and more than 700 people in the village to engage in the copper-aluminum casting foundry industry, with an annual operating income of more than 200,000 yuan per household. , with a total operating income of about 60 million yuan. His bronze wares are not only sold domestically, but also sold overseas on the “free ride” of online shopping and self-driving tours, making old craftsmanship a “new magic weapon” for getting rich. (over)