LIN JIANJUN

Working from his humble studio in Putian, east of the Chinese province of Fujian, Lin Jianjun has one simple goal: to let a younger generation see the beauty and value of traditional Chinese wood carving.

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SEASON 1 - SCULPTOR

LIN JIANJUN

There aren’t a lot of artists on the same level as Lin Jianjun. In fact, according to him, there are about 5 or more artists left that do the same level of traditional Chinese wood carving in the country, and each of them has their particular style and way of working, which makes Lin a rarity, even in his sphere. However, it wasn’t always like this for the intrepid sculptor. According to him, his childhood was spent in the presence of artists, craftsmen, and sculptors of all mediums available. These artisans were respected icons in their field, but as with all icons, they grew older, and succeeding generations were either unable or unwilling to take their place.

Working from his humble studio in Putian, east of the Chinese province of Fujian, Lin Jianjun has one simple goal: to let a younger generation see the beauty and value of traditional Chinese wood carving.

It’s a sad story often seen all over the world. Artisans and makers cannot find suitable replacements simply because their industry is no longer lucrative enough to entice a younger generation to take up the craft, be it sculpting, painting, or even shoemaking. There is simply very little money to be had from such work. However, that’s the part Lin wants to change. Not only does he want the youth to see the historical and cultural value of traditional Chinese wood carving, but he wants to prove that it can and should be a viable source of livelihood.
Before he even started taking on apprentices to teach, Lin got started with his artistic journey at age 6, back in the mid-90s when he first learned how to hold a chisel from an aunt who was a wood carver. His aunt showed him how a humble piece of wood could become a work of art through sheer patience, creativity, and perseverance. This instilled in him a profound love for the craft and learned from her all he could. After a year of rigorous learning, he left his hometown and embarked to apprentice under other masters of the craft.
LIN JIANJUN

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He did this for years, jumping from teacher to teacher, learning and absorbing all he could, while simultaneously juggling his education and personal life. It was physically demanding but ultimately fulfilling, as he had the support and admiration of his family throughout the years of his apprenticeship.

Upon leaving the tutelage of his masters, he immediately found work in Buddhist temples. These temples saw the cultural and religious value in his work and were instrumental in growing his studio during the first few years of his career as an independent artist. Much of his work still echoes those first few years, but now he takes inspiration from all sorts of places, including personal experiences, travels, and even daily life with his wife, Chen Qin, a wood carver much like him.

Nowadays, Lin takes on his apprentices. He’s very strict when it comes to selecting them, however, requiring them to not only have a solid foundation in the arts but also to have the determination and dedication to the (often very) physically-laborious craft of wood carving. Despite that, he is very much satisfied with the students he has under him, and hopes to one day exhibit their work in galleries and museums all over the world. This, for him, will help keep the traditional Chinese art of wood carving alive, and hopefully encourage others to become craftsmen as well. Check out his work here on Ronin.
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