A set of special stamps celebrating historic bamboo carvings from Hong Kong Post’s ongoing “Museums Collection” was issued on Nov. 14, 2017.
It was the fifth set of special stamps from the postal service’s “Museums Collection,” which began in 2009 to showcase pieces from the art and cultural collections of local museums.
Characterized by its straight appearance, hollow core and tenacious strength, bamboo is often associated with noble, upright and virtuous Chinese literati; it has been used to symbolize gentlemen since ancient times. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, simple and elegant bamboo carvings won favour with intellectuals as scholarly accoutrements and table ornaments, and thus, bamboo carving was encouraged to flourish.
STEM CARVING & ROOT CARVING
Bamboo carving is the art of engraving decorative patterns or illustrations on bamboo or carving decorative objects out of bamboo roots and rhizomes. Bamboo carvings can be broadly classified into two categories, namely “stem carving” and “root carving.”
In “stem carving,” bamboo stems are used as the carving materials and the finished artifacts are mainly brushpots, incense holders and scroll holders.
As for “root carving,” bamboo carvers make dexterous use of the different textures and forms of the roots or rhizomes and carve them into a vast array three-dimensional sculptures and decorative objects such as human and animal figurines.
The set of special stamps features six bamboo carvings from the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art donated by Dr. Ip Yee (1921-84). Embossing and debossing have been employed in the printing of these stamps to accentuate the exquisite craftsmanship of each masterpiece, producing a strong three-dimensional effect.
- $1.70 – Cricket cage carved with flowers & insects in liuqing low relief, a plaything carved by XU Subai in 1959.
- $2.20 – Lingzhi fungus and narcissus carved in the round, a decorative object from the Yongzheng period of the Qing dynasty.
- $2.90 – Brushpot carved with the scene of “Night Visit to the Red Cliff” in high relief, a scholarly accessory from the 18th century.
- $3.10 – Incense holder carved with a lady reading a letter in secret in openwork, an incense burning tool from the late 17th century to the early 18th century.
- $3.70 – Water container with plum branches carved in the round, a scholarly accoutrement from the Kangxi period of the Qing dynasty.
- $5 – Jar carved with kui-dragon and animal masks in low relief, a decorative piece from the Qianlong period of the Qing dynasty.
The stamps were designed by Shirman LAI and printed in lithography plus embossing and debossing by Cartor Security Printing, of France. Official first-day covers were also issued.