A group of Chinese artists recently immortalized the famous Chinese painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival by replicating it on to a giant piece of fossilized ebony. Over 800 people, 30 structures, 28 ships, a harbour, a town hall, and a market, were painstakingly carved on to the 30-tonne chunk of ebony. It took the artists a whopping 600 days to complete, and the final piece was displayed at the 11th Annual China International Cultural Industries Fair in Shenzhen.
At 27.5 meters long and 1.92 meters tall, the ebony replica is more than double the size of the original scroll. The black fossilised ebony, known as ‘wumu’, gets its unique density and colors from being buried underground for thousands of years. This particular piece of wood is 5,000 years old: It was discovered in the riverbed of Minjiang River.
The original painting, fondly referred to as China’s Mona Lisa, was the creation of Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan. He captured the daily life of people in the city of Bianjing (today’s Kaifeng) during the Northern Song period (960 to 1279), in great detail. The painting’s scenes reveal the lifestyle of people from all levels of society – rich and poor – as well as people of different professions. Over the centuries, the Qingming scroll has passed through numerous private owners. It eventually returned to public ownership, and is among China’s most prized artworks. In fact, it is exhibited quite rarely, only once every few years.
Replicating the historic painting was a daunting task, but Chinese sculptor Wang Xinyuan and his team of artists rose to the occasion, transforming the piece of wood into a brilliant, intricate masterpiece.