Lin’an Root Carving: A Unique Traditional Art Form

Lin’an root carving, a distinctive traditional art form, originates from Lin’an in Zhejiang province. This art form utilizes the natural shapes of tree roots and, through the clever designs and exquisite craftsmanship of artists, transforms them into unique and intricate artworks. With a long history, Lin’an root carving features special and precious materials, combining natural beauty with artistic beauty to create pieces of high artistic and collectible value. The detailed and complex production process includes steps such as collecting root materials, peeling and cleaning, conceptualizing designs, and more, culminating in awe-inspiring artistic creations.

The Art of Root Carving

Root carving involves using naturally formed or deformed tree roots (including tree trunks, tree knots, bamboo roots, etc.) as the basis for artistic creation. Through careful design, artistic processing, and technical treatment, artists create figures, animals, objects, and other artistic representations. Lin’an root carving has been listed in the intangible cultural heritage directory of Lin’an City.

History and Heritage

According to the “Lin’an City Jincheng Street Intangible Cultural Heritage Collection,” the origins of Lin’an root carving can be traced back to the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty. During that time, Du Zhentian’s great-grandfather, Du Akui, migrated from the root carving town of Shengzhou to Qianwangpu Village in Lin’an. He set up a shop to sell meticulously crafted root carving artworks. Each piece embodied his dedication and wisdom, gaining widespread admiration from the local populace.

This unique craft was passed down through the Du family for four generations, with each generation honing their skills and refining their style. Today, Du Zhentian, a descendant of the Du family, is a renowned root carving artist in Lin’an. His works not only carry the family’s traditional craftsmanship but also incorporate modern aesthetics and creative elements, breathing new life into Lin’an root carving.

Lin’an root carving is highly praised for its distinctive artistic style and superb craftsmanship. It is more than just a decorative item; it symbolizes cultural heritage and spiritual expression. In the hands of artists like Du Zhentian, each ordinary root is transformed into a vibrant work of art, showcasing the wonders of nature and the limitless creativity of humans.

Artistic Characteristics

Lin’an root carving stands out due to its unique artistic style and the special, precious materials used. Typically, the raw materials for Lin’an root carving are valuable tree roots that have aged for hundreds to thousands of years, such as those from nanmu and rosewood trees. These trees grow slowly in nature, producing hard, finely textured wood that is highly appreciated for both its visual appeal and artistic value. The roots, shaped and weathered by nature, possess varied forms and distinctive textures, providing artists with endless creative inspiration.

The charm of root carving lies in the perfect fusion of the natural shapes of the roots with the artists’ ingenious ideas and superb skills. Each root carving work retains the original shape of the root while undergoing precise carving and polishing by the artist, resulting in a unique artistic expression. During the creation process, artists must preserve the natural texture and form of the root while incorporating their artistic vision, making each piece full of vitality and artistic value. This high level of integration between nature and art gives Lin’an root carving its exceptional aesthetic and collectible value.

Another notable feature of Lin’an root carving is its uniqueness. Each root carving piece is one-of-a-kind because the raw materials are unique. Artists cannot replicate the same material and form, making each root carving an exclusive artwork in the world. The natural formation and texture of each root, shaped by the elements over time, provide a unique character and style to every piece. This uniqueness not only enhances the artistic value but also makes root carving highly sought after in the art market.

Moreover, the natural form and texture of root carvings make them impossible to synthesize or counterfeit. Modern technology can replicate many art pieces, but it cannot reproduce the natural textures and forms of root carvings. Each root carving undergoes a long natural process of growth, weathering, and deformation, culminating in a unique shape that artificial means cannot entirely replicate. This natural beauty, created over years, is why root carvings hold such high artistic and collectible value. Collectors are drawn to root carvings not only for their aesthetic appeal but also for the natural and temporal power they embody.

Production Process

Creating Lin’an root carvings involves a meticulous and skillful process. From collecting root materials to the final presentation, each step requires the artist’s dedication and wisdom.

The first step in making Lin’an root carvings is collecting root materials. Artists venture into forests to find roots with unique shapes and textures. This process demands a keen eye and extensive experience to select the most suitable roots for carving.

After collecting the roots, the next step is peeling and cleaning. Artists carefully remove the outer bark and dirt, preserving the root’s internal structure and texture. This preparation is crucial for the subsequent carving work, requiring great patience and attention to detail.

Conceptualizing the design is a critical phase in the production process. Artists, based on the natural shapes and textures of the roots, integrate their life experiences and artistic skills to design unique shapes. This stage requires a profound carving foundation, rich imagination, and creativity.

The next step is carving and shaping. Artists use various carving tools to meticulously shape the root according to the predetermined design. During the carving process, they must precisely capture every detail while maintaining the root’s natural beauty, achieving a harmonious blend of human craftsmanship and natural charm.

Once carving is complete, artists polish and color the work. Polishing smooths the surface of the piece, enhancing the wood’s natural texture, while coloring adds vividness and visual impact, requiring skilled techniques and accurate color application.

Value and Significance

Lin’an root carving is deeply rooted in Chinese traditional culture, embodying both artistic and collectible value. Each piece is a blend of the artisan’s dedication and wisdom, representing a dialogue between the artist and nature.

Examining these root carvings reveals the perfect combination of natural aesthetics and technical craftsmanship. This fusion reflects the artist’s respect and reverence for nature and their mastery of the craft. Every detail in a root carving tells a story of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.

Moreover, Lin’an root carving is a testament to the preservation of traditional handicrafts. In an era dominated by mechanization, this art form holds onto tradition, combining ancient techniques with modern aesthetics, thus revitalizing this age-old craft. This commitment to tradition and innovation plays a crucial role in promoting cultural heritage and developing cultural industries.

Root carving art also serves as a historical witness, capturing the aesthetic views, technical levels, and cultural backgrounds of different eras. Studying these works offers insights into history and allows us to appreciate the cultural landscape of the past.

Renowned Artists

Fang Mingshan, a leading figure in Lin’an root carving, is celebrated for his unique artistic style and exceptional carving skills. His journey into root carving began in 1997, sparked by a chance opportunity that led him to this field.

Over the years, Fang Mingshan apprenticed under Liu Xiaoping, a master of Chinese arts and crafts, absorbing rich artistic nourishment and continuously honing his skills. His unwavering dedication to root carving has seen him through countless challenges, which have both tested and refined him, broadening his artistic path.

Fang Mingshan’s persistence and talent have earned him significant acclaim in the field of root carving. His works are not only rich in artistic content but also demonstrate his unique understanding and innovative expression of traditional culture. Each piece he creates is a testament to his artistic talent and dedication.

In 2009, Fang Mingshan’s efforts and talent were recognized by the Lin’an Municipal People’s Government, bestowing upon him the title of “Lin’an Folk Artist.” This honor not only acknowledges his past achievements but also encourages his future creations. Fang Mingshan continues to dedicate himself to root carving, creating awe-inspiring works and contributing to the root carving tradition of Lin’an. His story inspires others to pursue their dreams, stay true to their passions, and strive for artistic excellence.


1. Zhejiang Provincial Archives. (2019, December 27). Lin’an Root Carving.

2. Tuba Rabbit Decoration. Characteristics of Root Carving.

3. Tuba Rabbit Decoration Network. Detailed Explanation of the Root Carving Production Process.

4. Baidu Know. (2021, April 22). The Meaning and Value of Root Carving Artworks.

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