Suzuo Craftsmanship Takes Root in Wuzhong 2017 Suzuo Cultural Creativity Summit Opened in Taihu Lake

On November 18th, the opening ceremony of 2017 Suzuo Cultural Creativity Summit was held in Suzhou Taihu International Conference Center. With the theme of Suzuo Craftsmanship Takes Root in Wuzhong, this summit has taken advantage of the deep cultural resources in Wuzhong District to focus on the exchange and integration of Suzuo and creativity under the new normal stage. The inheritance and development prospect of the traditional art and craft industry of Wuzhong District in recent years has been also displayed.

This summit has comprised the activity at the main conference center and 6 series of activities. During the opening ceremony of Suzuo Cultural Creativity Summit which is a main activity, the publicity video for Suzuo Craftsmanship Takes Root in Wuzhong was put on screen for the first time. The unified symbol for Suzuo Cultural Creativity was released while the letter of appointment for Suzuo Think Tank was also issued. The award winners and the master’s studios at the provincial or city level for the first session of Dongwu Outstanding Craftsman and the first session of Traditional Skill Competition for Rural Talents in Jiangsu were praised for their achievements. The launching ceremony for the two key projects for online trade platform of art and craft works, namely Suzhou Craftsman Park and Suzuo Cultural Creativity•Wuzhong Craftsmanship, was also held during the opening ceremony. Wuzhong District signed an agreement for joint talent cultivation with China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. Meanwhile, the lecture hall for Suzuo craft culture was also held.

The 6 series of activities are as follows. The second session of Suzuo Crafts Exhibition under Sino-French Cultural Forum was held in Lyon of France from September 26th to September 27th. 12 craft masters from Wuzhong District attended the second session of Sino-French Cultural Forum with 18 of their works. The activities, such as opening ceremony for the cultural forum, were attended by Chen Zhu who is the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC and the chairman of Western Returned Scholars Association•Overseas-educated Scholars Association of China and Raffarin who is the former prime minister of France. More than 400 guests from the circles of politics, commerce and culture in the two countries also attended the exhibition, making it the greatest craft exhibition of Wuzhong District for foreign countries. Suzuo Institute of Arts, which is a cooperative project between Suzhou Art&Design Technology Institute and Guangfu Town, was initiated. The aim of the institute is to provide art training and education for those craft talents in the local place and then develop into a training base for improving the skills and qualities of local craft talents. With the theme of Culture Enhances Taste and Creativity Changes Life, 2017 Wuzhong Cultural Creativity Fair offered over 40 exhibition booths so as to display the rich resource of cultural and creative industries in Wuzhong District from many angles. With the theme of Suzuo Craftsmanship Takes Root in Wuzhong, Wuzhong Craft Talents’ Excellent Works Competition was organized. It also combined with Suyi Cup and Zigang Cup at the city level. As many as 20 craft masters brought their representative works to Suzhou Cultural Expo Center with the purpose of displaying the outstanding skills and development achievements of those craft masters in Wuzhong.

With the theme of Revitalization, Interconnection and Industrial Upgrade, 2017 Traditional Craft Youth Forum has involved 7 smaller topics about the connection between traditional craft and modern industry as well as 4 roundtable forums between inheritors and designers. More than 60 domestic experts and scholars specializing in the research of traditional crafts as well as inheritors devoted to intangible cultural heritage will take part in relevant activities. Moreover, 10 guests in the circles of culture and design from French Century Art International Economic and Cultural Exchange Association and Paris Asian Contemporary Art Center as well as the craft masters from Guangfu Town will be invited to the exchange conference for Suzuo oversea cooperative projects.

Wuzhong is famous for its deep historical and cultural essence. Promoting the development of Suzuo cultural and creative crafts is an important measure to inherit and carry forward Wu culture. According to relevant data, Wuzhong is home to 117 representative inheritors devoted to various intangible cultural heritages. It has ranked top with 12 craft works included in the list of Shanhua Award, which represents the top honor for the folk art and craft in China. The number of city-level art and craft masters in Wuzhong have accounted for one third of the total number in Suzhou. During the recently-held Traditional Skill Competition for Rural Talents in Jiangsu, the winners of the first and second prizes from Wuzhong have accounted for 10 percent of all winners. 9 of the top ten winners for nut carving came from Wuzhong district. A large number of rural talents with outstanding skills and creative ideas can be found in the folk society. There are 229 production companies and studios devoted to the industry of art and craft in Wuzhong. More than 100 thousand people are working for over 2000 stores doing business related to art and craft in Wuzhong.

In recent years, Wuzhong has made great efforts to create excellent brands and lead the revitalization of Suzuo traditional crafts. Since 2016, Wuzhong District has been striving to cultivate the talents for science&technology innovation and craft&culture innovation with the purpose of raising the rural craft culture to the same status of leading talent. The platform of Suzuo Cultural Creativity Summit has been also set up. The cultural brand of Suzuo Craftsmanship Takes Root in Wuzhong has been put forward to include the craft culture talent in the efforts for talent cultivation. Besides, Wuzhong has taken the lead in raising the banner of revitalizing Suzuo in Suzhou City. By cooperating with numerous institutes and ministries, such as Western Returned Scholars Association•Overseas-educated Scholars Association of China, Ministry of Culture, China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, China National Academy of Arts and Academy of Arts & Design of Tsinghua University, Wuzhong has attracted many experts researching traditional crafts, cultural and artistic critics, the inheritors of intangible cultural heritage, designers and cultural creativity enterprises both at home and abroad to make survey in the local place. They have been also interacting with the local craft culture talents, thus forming the Wuzhong Mode of revitalizing the traditional craft. Through a few years of efforts, Suzuo Cultural Creativity Summit will become an annual event bringing together the talents for craft and cultural creativity as well as develop into a first-rate provincial exchange platform with national and international influence. The omni-media publicity matrix will be also built to enhance the exposure and popularity of Wuzhong crafts on various media platforms.

In addition, the policies aimed to encourage innovation have been released to further improve the rural talents for Suzuo. This February, Wuzhong District released 20 new policies which confirm cultural talents as one of the five types of talent receiving great support. The methods of giving special support to the talents of Dongwu culture were also made. In order to encourage those talents to apply for the projects of art and craft, Wuzhong will offer the financial support ranging from 200 to 500 thousand RMB. With the aim of encouraging the creation of art and craft works and facilitating the talent exchange, Wuzhong will give the subsidy up to 80 thousand RMB to the external exhibition with the unified symbol of Suzuo. In order to encourage the self-improvement of those talents, Wuzhong will give the financial awards from 20 thousand RMB to 1 million RMB to those talents winning the honor above the provincial level. With the purpose of encouraging those craft and art universities in China to hold various academic conferences in Wuzhong, Wuzhong will give a subsidy up to 1 million RMB. In order to encourage those universities to set up their training bases in Wuzhong, Wuzhong will give the monthly living allowance from 600 to 3000 RMB to those students joining cultural creativity companies or interning in the studio. In the hope of encouraging the introduction and cultivation of craft culture talents, Wuzhong will give the financial reward of 500 thousand RMB to those talents wining the honor of Chinese art and craft masters and national-level intangible cultural heritage inheritors. In order to encourage various departments, sectors and social organizations to organize various activities for crafts and cultural creativity in Wuzhong, Wuzhong will offer some organizing awards and travel allowance. During the first session of Dongwu Craftsman Selection, the first batch of 28 rural craft culture talents who have made excellent achievements for leading the craft inheritance, facilitating the industrial development and helping the masses achieve prosperity were selected. The fund of 10 million RMB has been set aside to support the development of cultural industry. Great support has been given to the excellent projects, products and clusters in the industries of art and craft. Great emphasis has been placed on the cultivation of young craft talents. Suzhou Institute of Arts, which is jointly founded with Suzhou Art&Design Technology Institute, has been established to provide custom-made training for craft talents. The Inheritance class for nut carving has been also opened in cooperation with Nut Carving Professional Committee of Chinese Folk Literature&Art Association. The accidental injury insurance and physical examination have been also provided for those key rural craft culture talents, including national inheritors of intangible cultural heritage, art and craft masters above the provincial level and the cultural publicity talents above the city level. In a word, great efforts have been made to improve the services for the talents.

Besides, numerous platforms have been set up to facilitate the development of Suzuo cultural creativity industry. Besides building the platform for industrial cluster, the fund totaling hundreds of millions of RMB has been raised for the high-standard projects, such as Zhoushan Nut Carving Village, Guangfu Town with Craft Characteristics, Chinese Craft Culture City and Yushe Peasants’ Calligraphy and Painting Market. The support of 500 thousand RMB will be given to the projects with the greatest potential for creative culture at most. The platform of internet plus has been built to accelerate the building of E-commerce platform for craft culture. The professional E-commerce platforms, such as Dongjia, have been introduced to give internet support to the traditional craft industry. The capital platform has been also built. Under the mode of internet, art and finance, it will facilitate the connection between capital and craft works as well as explore new development direction. Cai Yundi who is a master of Dengni stone carving and Zhou Jianming who is a master of nut carving listed their studios in the culture&art exchange. The external exchange platform has been built. Various exhibitions, such as Brilliant Guangfu Artistic Carving Exhibition of National Center for the Performing Arts, Suzuo Ming-styled Furniture-making Skills Exhibition and Suzhou Guangfu Handicraft Works Exhibition in Taiwan, have been held. This September, Suzuo Crafts Exhibition was held during the second session of Sino-French Cultural Forum. 12 Suzuo masters brought 18 high-quality craft works to the exhibition, which attracted more than 400 Chinese and foreign guests including Raffarin who is the former prime minister of France. Later, the designers of some high-end French brands came to Wuzhong and exchanged ideas on future cooperation with those craft masters.

The strategy of rural revitalization was proposed during the 19th CPC National Congress. Adhering to the basic ideas of inheritance and development, Wuzhong will focus on the traditional craft industry and craft talents for Suzuo. By making and releasing the policies for promoting the industrial development, increasing the fund input, cultivating the industrial talents and building the platform for the enterprises, Wuzhong will revitalize the traditional craft, strengthen the cultural creativity industry and facilitate the rural revitalization. Through the brand of Suzuo Cultural Creativity Summit, Wuzhong will carry forward the traditional Chinese craftsman’s spirit and rural culture represented by Suzuo as well as become a real cradle of Suzuo culture and a cluster Suzuo talents and cultural creativity enterprises.

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