Mending techniques turn broken things into art

By Liu Sitong
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 16, 2018

Working at a workshop inside an antique market in Qingdao, Chen Dalei is the fifth generation in his family to carry on the tradition of mending broken house wares and antiques.


After learning from master craftsmen at home and abroad including elder generations of his family, Chen has earned recognition of international collectors with superb techniques, known as Chen’s mending craft, which has been listed as an intangible cultural heritage of Qingdao recently.

Chen Dalei (left) and his son (right) learn the craft of mending from his father. [Photo/Qingdao Today]


The traditional method of mending with metal staples has transformed into an art of imperfect beauty after developing in China for millennia.


In Chen’s family, the art was passed down from Chen Yonggui who practiced the craft in the royal court during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1796) in Qing Dynasty.


Chen said that the craft requires appreciation of art, timing, dexterity, and manual labor. He honed in the manual skills when working with daily supplies as an apprentice of his father in a tender age. He also paid great attention to the life wisdom of the common people.

One of Chen Dalei’s works of mending craft. [Photo/Qingdao Today]


After having accumulated a wealth of experience, he is now a master hand of mending art works and antiques. People from other cities travel to Qingdao to seek his service. To respond to increasing demands, Chen moved his workshop from home to the curio market on Shiwu Dajie, where he often works from 6 am to 12 pm for a day.


And on weekends, Chen displays his recent works at a corner near the entrance of a cultural market in the city. Showcased on a small, square table, the exquisite art pieces resulting from Chen’s mending craft could be a teapot or a dish with cracks on the surface being covered with artistic designs.


Chen’s passion for the craft influenced his family. His wife started to work as his assistant, and his 14-year-old son Chen Jiahao has the capability to work on his own to complete a mending task.



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