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Root Carving, a Traditional Chinese Carving Art


Root carving is a traditional art form in China. It is a kind of artworks carved out of natural or distorted tree roots by means of a cutting tool through careful designing and artistic processing. Unlike other kinds of carvings, while root carving, the creator must make the best use of the original shape of the root, so the creator can explore its natural beauty.





China has a long history of root carving. The earliest root carving works existing today are the “talisman” and the horn-shaped ware of the Warring States Period, which were successively unearthed from the ancient tombs in Hubei Province in the 1980s. Root carving was already a highly-valued special art form in ancient times. During the Song and Yuan Dynasties, the art of root carving enjoyed booming development in the imperial courts and among ordinary people.


The Main Process of Creating Root Art


1) Root selection. This has to be done with respect to both quality and shape of the natural root. 2) Conception. A necessary feature of root-art creation is originality. 3) Processing. When the concept is clarified, the superfluous roots can be sewn or clipped, and the bark removed. 4) Coloring and lacquering. This is done for the benefit of antisepsis and collecting purposes.


Two Major Types of Root Carvings


1) Applied root carving. This type of root carvings has a practical utility as well as ornamental value. Some common examples include home accessories, such as chairs, tea tables, screens, and some stationeries, including brush shelves, ink slabs, etc.


2) Ornamental root carving. Root carving of this kind is primarily for decoration purposes and accounts for a large proportion of root carvings. Based on their respective shapes, they can be further classified into many types, such as root carvings featuring characters, animals, flowers, etc.



Root carving integrates ingenuity and craftiness by employing ways of expressions similar to wood carvings, sculptures and stone carvings. Root carvings usually have great aesthetic value of collection and admiring. As an art form, root carving has become a cultural symbol of the traditional Chinese artworks.

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