Amazing Woodcarving Art on Display at Sanyi

Tex/Kurt Weidner
Photos/Tourism Bureau, Vision Int'l
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Wood is probably best appreciated while walking within lush forests,of which Taiwan has many. If you want to take a refreshing "forest shower,"a trip to Alishan in south-central Taiwan or Taipingshan in northeastern Taiwan is highly recommended. If you can't go to the forest, however, the next best way to appreciate wood is a visit to Sanyi, the woodcarving capital of Taiwan.

Sanyi is a small town. Located in Miaoli County about 2.5 hours by train from Taipei, the town is almost exclusively known for its woodcarving industry.

History

Sanyi hasn't always been a center for the art of wood sculpting. It all started in 1918 when a local man named Wu Jin-bao began creating ornamental art using withered camphor wood. Camphor trees are very common in the forest areas surrounding Sanyi. When his artworks came to the attention of Japanese officials (Taiwan was under Japanese rule at the time), the Japanese started researching the possibilities of developing a woodcarving industry in Sanyi. The son of Wu Jin-bao, Wu Luo-song, learned from the Japanese the art of sculpting nature scenes, animals, and people in wood. Many of Sanyi's master woodcarvers thereafter learned the craft at Wu's workshop. Another master carver of the time who acquired his skills from the Japanese was Li Jin-chuan. He established a woodcarving business in Tongsiao, a town about 15 kilometers northwest of Sanyi, and specialized in sculptures of religious and historical figures. One of Li's disciples is the now world-famous master sculptor Ju Ming, who has a dedicated museum on the coast north of Taipei (www.juming.org.tw).

Shueimei Street

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Shueimei Street, the main street in the southern part of town, is where most of the shops selling fine-art works created in Sanyi can be found. There are more than 200 shops, selling all kinds of sculptures ranging from small animal statues to elaborate Buddhist icons. The variety of styles and the innovativeness of local artists are simply amazing, and tourists have a lot of choice in looking for that unique souvenir or expensive gift.

Guangsheng Village

If you want to watch master sculptors at work there is no better place than Guangsheng Village, which is within walking distance of Shueimei Street. Master carvers from all over Taiwan, and even some foreign artists, live and work here in close proximity, inspiring and pushing each other to ever higher levels of creativity. Guangsheng Village is also home to the Miaoli Wood Sculpture Museum.

Miaoli Wood Sculpture Museum

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To learn more about the history of woodcarving in Sanyi, a visit to the Miaoli Wood Sculpture Museum is highly recommended. The museum was opened in 1995 as the first museum dedicated to the art of woodcarving in Taiwan. Here you will be introduced to all the different aspects of the art. There is a large collection of masterpieces from Sanyi with detailed information about history, techniques, and styles, and you will also learn about the differences between hand-carved and machine-carved objects as well as find out about the different kinds of wood used. Exhibitions cover religious items and temple art, statuary and reliefs, and highly innovative and experimental pieces, as well as works by aboriginal artists.

Hours: Daily (except Mondays and during Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Address: 88, Guangsheng Sincheng, Guangsheng Village, Sanyi Township, Miaoli County

tel: (037) 876-009

website: wood.mlc.gov.tw

Admission:
adult ticketNT$60
group ticketNT$50
student concessionNT$50
group student concessionNT$40

Sanyi Wood Sculpture Festival

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One of the highlights of Taiwan's cultural-event calendar each year is the Sanyi Wood Sculpture Festival. To be held for the 14th time this year, the festival is scheduled for August 19~27. It features the most amazing wood sculptures created in Sanyi, as well as those by invited sculptors from around the world. Apart from the exhibitions, the festival also has a rich program of side activities, including stage performances and DIY courses.

How to Get There

  • Taking a train from Taipei takes about 2.5 hours and costs NT$192 ("Fusing"train), or NT$230 ("Jyuguang"train).
  • From Taichung the train ride takes 37 minutes, with tickets costing NT$52 ("Fusing" and NT$62 ("Jyuguang").
  • From Miaoli City you can also take a bus to Sanyi. Buses leave every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • If you drive yourself, take the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1) and exit at Sanyi Interchange about 17 kilometers south of Miaoli City. From the exit, follow Provincial Road 13 forward and you will almost immediately be on Shueimei Street (i.e., the same road).