Yun He Tang Store沄鹤堂
Address : Room 2023, Second Floor, Chenzhai Flower Market, Erqi District
二七区陈寨花卉市场二楼2023室
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In ancient times, Chinese carved inscriptions into articles as a way of recording history, culture and important events. The inscribing of records on bones and bronze items dates back nearly 4,000 years. In ancient times, stones, bricks, tiles, ceramics, wood and jade were also used as media for the inscribing of records.

By the beginning of the seventh century, or perhaps much earlier, the Chinese had developed the method of using paper and ink to make copies of the inscribed records. Such a copy was referred to as tapian (rubbing). Broadly speaking, tapian is a copy of an inscription and/or pattern on a bone, tombstone, coin, Buddha, portrayal, stone tablet or bronze ware. Narrowly speaking, tapian is a copy of an inscription on a tombstone or stone tablet. Making tapian is an effective way of protecting traditional culture and historical relics, and it is an effective way of passing on the culture to future generations.

Several steps are required to make a tapian. First, lay a piece of paper on the inscription or pattern, then brush the paper with water; second, lay a piece of absorbent paper on the first piece of paper, then tap the upper piece of paper with a brush; third, remove the upper piece of paper; fourth, tap the lower piece of paper with an inked puff, when the paper is almost dry; and, finally, remove the paper from the inscription or pattern. A copy of the inscription or pattern is completed.

Yang Hui opened Yun He Tang store, in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province, in June 2012. The store sells albums and thread-bound books about rubbings. Customers can also experience how to make rubbings at the store.

Yang's father is an archaeologist. He had great influence on Yang when she was young. Yang began to learn the skills of making rubbings from Tang Guoqiang, an expert in making rubbings, in 2002. Then, she studied rubbing-making skills with Li Renqing, another expert.

"Teacher Tang not only taught me how to make cinnabar ink, which is used for making rubbings. He also taught me how to be a good person, and how to conduct myself in society. Teacher Li taught me the skills of making rubbings … and the spirit of being strict in making rubbings," recalls Yang.

"Many sculptures and stone tablets are located on top of the mountains. When I made rubbings of such sculptures or stone tablets, I often got up at five in the morning, and then I climbed to the top of the mountain with the rubbing-making tools. During that time, I needed to sleep in the mountains. Making rubbings for sculptures and stone tablets is really hard work," says Yang.

"I believe the inscriptions on the sculptures and stone tablets are valuable documents. The inscriptions are gradually weathering. We need to make rubbings … before they become illegible. Even though many ancient stone tablets have been destroyed, it is fortunate for us to know the inscriptions on the tablets, as our elder generations made the rubbings," says Yang.  

"Now, few people know the skills of making rubbings. I hope more people will learn traditional rubbing skills. So, I opened Yun He Tang store in 2012, to promote the skills of making rubbings. I demonstrate how to make rubbings to customers. I also tell them about the points for attention when they are making rubbings. Then, customers can make rubbings themselves. At last, I teach them how to mount or print the rubbings on the medium, including T-shirts, fans, canvas bags and mobile phone shells," says Yang.

"Rubbings are more than collections. The traditional rubbing-making skills can be integrated into our daily lives. So, more people will be interested in the skills of making rubbings. I call it activation of rubbings. In this way, the precious cultural heritage (rubbing-making skills) can be known and mastered by more people," says Yang.

Room 2023, Second Floor, Chenzhai Flower Market, Erqi District
二七区陈寨花卉市场二楼2023室

 

(Executive Editors: WEI XUANYI and ZHANG JIAMIN, Women of China English Monthly December 2016 Issue)

 

 

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