State of Handicrafts in China

Etat des Lieux de l'Artisanat en Chine

Art and handicrafts that are difficult to access. Understand everything about Chinese craftsmanship:


Some people say that craftsmanship is a reflection of the culture of a country. China is a country teeming with art, tradition and culture of extreme refinement, which have developed over 5,000 years of civilization. The know-how has been transmitted in writing, or from one generation to the next, allowing the whole world to enjoy these wonders. Unfortunately, this side of China is unfortunately not the most well-known side of Westerners and this can be explained by several factors:

Complexity and richness of craftsmanship in China:

China is full of artisans and different forms of art spread all over China. Here's a short recap of these most well-known arts that everyone is familiar with (at least I hope!), Which we'll explore in more depth in future articles:the art of jade,the art of pottery and ceramics,calligraphy and painting,Chinese garden art,the art of Buddhism,the sculpture... There are therefore hundreds of art forms and tens of thousands of artisans in China, located in different provinces and of which certain ethnic groups have appropriated their practice, making the work of census and classification extremely difficult for the authorities, government institutions, or even for associations or private companies. For exemple,some craftsmen will find themselves lost in the depths of a village or a countryside, whileothers will be grouped together in gigantic shopping complexes, making it easier to access works of art and handicrafts for the general public.


A woman from the Moso (or Mosuo) ethnic minority at Lugu Lake, Yunnan Province

Cultural and linguistic barriers:

Needless to say that language and culture remain two very important obstacles to accessing authentic and quality artisanal products (and to do a lot of other things in China!). Based on my personal experience, I will say that 99% of the artisans I have met do not speak a word of English (and again, I think I am nice!). Mastering Mandarin is therefore a key point in finding the best deals.. Some of these products are quite complex (in terms of materials, manufacture, conservation, use, etc.), it will be more difficult for you to make good purchases and good deals if you do not speak Chinese or do not speak Chinese. have no translator by your side. (Note that it is extremely easy to find a translator in China, you just have to request one atthe reception of your hotel, or in a local travel agency).


Small store in Lijiang (Yunnan) selling handcrafted key chains

Lack of uniformity, administrative and ethnic barriers:

China is a huge and decentralized country made up of 23 provinces populated by 56 ethnic groups. All these provinces and ethnic groups have their own specialties in terms of crafts and art, which are themselves managed by different government institutions. The Chinese Ministry of Culture, as well as certain institutions and associations (such as " The Cultural Center of China For example), try as best they can to promote Chinese culture, arts and crafts in China and around the world, but this is limited to the main art forms and the main actors, leaving behind thousands of small artisans, lonely and working independently, without any help or support from the government or from these associations. In France, for example, all craftsmen are registered in the register of the Chamber of Trades and Crafts, and can therefore easily be identified through a logo or in a directory. There is no such classification in China, making it difficult to find handicrafts for Chinese art enthusiasts and professionals.


Green landscape near Hongcun, Anhui Province

Lack of international information:

You may have noticed it, but the favorite subject of our media when it comes to talking about China is not art, culture or crafts, but rather these negative aspects, such as pollution. , human rights, lack of education, dog or cat feasts (big clichéstill far too common these days!), or even the other crazy things that can be seen in China ... No need to remember that China opened up to the world just less than 40 years ago, and that since then, the economic and cultural progress made by China and its people is already more than impressive. On the contrary, communicating about the positive aspects of China would probably allow many people to form a different opinion of this beautiful country, and encourage them to discover and learn more about its culture and art, instead of point out and criticize what they do not know or very badly ...


Young painter near Hongcun, Anhui Province

To conclude, accessing authentic and quality handicrafts, antiques or works of art can therefore be very tedious in China due to the lack of uniformity and guarantees given by the government in terms of standards and legislation. Theexpertise, experience and fluency in Chinese are therefore the keys to being able to obtain authentic products at the best prices, making accessibility to these products limited to a handful of people.

To find these products, the best is to go directly to China to find these shops and artisan products (not easy for everyone!), Or to buy through specialized resellers.és. We will see in a future article, how to find these craftsmen and their works during your travels in the middle earth!

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