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November 28, 2020

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Inheritor’s glittering gift of shaping gold foil

IN China, gold foil is widely used as decoration in architecture, sculptures, craftwork, food and clothes. And forging gold foil, a traditional craft in Nanjing, has a long history.

It involves a dozen of procedures before it is perfect. The gold foil produced in Nanjing, which has been exported to about 20 countries and regions, is famous for its pure color, luster, smooth and filmy thickness.

Nanjing-born Wang Bisheng, 68, began to work at Nanjing Goldthread & Goldfoil General Factory in 1973, where he learned from the elder master Tan Zhushi.

By studying hard and being modest, Wang soon grasped the craft and scooped his reward when the large gold foil he made in 1991 won the bronze medal during the third Beijing International Expo.

In 2009, he was recognized as a national intangible cultural inheritor of the craft.

Wang shapes a gold brick into a thin piece of about 0.1 millimeters, by hammering it more than a thousand times. By doing this the gold foil can be as thin as a cicada’s wing.

The traditional forging ways of gold foil have been resumed at Nanjing Goldthread & Goldfoil General Factory and a master studio is set to pass down the traditional craft. Wang, although retired, has been re-employed to teach youngsters the handmade craft, which makes the gold foil much softer than that of at the hands of a machine.


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