October 1, 2014

Sibu Tales : Foochow Oil Paper Umbrellas


A typical 1960's scene of Sibu Kampong. Boy on bicycle and girls walking demurely along the almost car free road. One girl is carrying a Foochow Umbrella.
Oil paper umbrellas have been produced in Fuzhou and Nanping of Fujian. It is known as one of the three treasures in Fuzhou(福州三寶). the other two are :bodiless lacquer ware and ox-horn comb. This umbrella is also called backpack umbrella . However this kind of umbrella is slowly replaced by the collapsible umbrella in the 1970's.

The oil-paper umbrella in Fuzhou is dated as long as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. When 王審知 established his own kingdom called "閩國" at Fuzhou, he brought the oil paper umbrella from Zhejiang with him. During the Ching dynasty, there were as many as 300 shops in Fuzhou. Oil paper umbrella was also one of the symbols for riot against the Japanese during the Xinhai revolution. The oil-paper umbrella in Fuzhou was famous for its endurance in an expo in Panama in 1915 and Chicago in 1933.
In 1985, the Fuzhou oil paper umbrella have had significant improvement and advancement and were exported to Japan, Europe and South East Asia. Every umbrella has 72 sticks in the scaffold, opens wide and closes small giving it a snake appearance, thus also named the "Snake Umbrella".
In 1990, a government official 林愛枝 went to Seattle for an umbrella exhibition, and a red umbrella he showed provoked a great response in the audience. But Fuzhou umbrella shop closed down in 1997, the production is now low with a minor export to Japan. Despite local umbrella artisans have already being occupied with other jobs, they still petition the local government's assistance in the recovery of this art.

Fuzhou oil-paper umbrella materials are chosen strictly with high quality. The scaffold must be made from bamboos of the Northern Fujian province with good elasticity and endurance, and the bamboos must be at least five years old. A single umbrella must go through 83 procedures.
Traditional Fuzhou oil-paper umbrella art is divided into five sub portions including umbrella scaffold, umbrella installment, umbrella head, handle and painting. The mainstream art is the umbrella installment. There are also a few famous local umbrella painters including 程家寶, 林永欽 and 劉夢秋.


Anonymous said...

\greetings from UK. In fact paper umbrella were used throughout S.E> Asia. Since when has it disappear in use?

Anonymous said...

In chiangmai, Thailand, they still makepaper umbrella but more as a tourist attraction.

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