Huang Chunmao with the china tableware he designed for the BRICS Summit banquet.
Shell-shaped plates, salt and pepper shakers fashioned after a mixture of different architectural styles on Gulangyu Island, and tea saucers inspired by boat designs are some of the delicate china tableware pieces featured at the welcoming banquet for leaders attending the ongoing BRICS Summit in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian Province. [Special coverage]
Huang Chunmao, professor of ceramic design at China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), is the brain behind these creations.
"The decision to adopt each and every piece was done with careful consideration to the event itself and the host city," he told CGTN.
It was not long before Huang was struck with a light bulb moment. He settled on the marine theme of his ceramic concoctions, drawing inspiration from Xiamen's geography and history.
"I highlighted the marine culture and the fact that Fujian was the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road," Huang noted.
The saucers of teacups took the shape of boats and were decorated with sea wave patterns in white and blue. The china tableware, according to Huang, tells the story of the innumerable ships that sailed from Fujian 2,000 years ago along the ancient route.
Gulangyu, a tiny pedestrian-only island off the coast of Xiamen, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China for its picturesque views and rich culture. It was named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site on July 8, 2017, "as China's major gateway in early-stage globalization and exhibited mixed architectural characteristics from the local, Southeast Asian and Western styles."<
A close up of the domed lid which features a map of Gulangyu Island and egrets.
It is also known as "Piano Island" as its piano ownership per capita ranks first nationwide – an estimated 600 of the instruments are squeezed on a 1.88-square-kilometer area with a population of around 20,000.
But how to appropriately use these local symbols on tableware for a state banquet posed a great challenge to Huang.
"It is a state-level event, which means we need to demonstrate traditional Chinese culture," Huang said, explaining that he chose the blue and white colors as they are very common on traditional china items and at the same time portray sea features.
"The piece of golden pattern under the lid is in the shape of Gulangyu's map," Huang said, pointing at a serving dish with domed lid, which also features the pattern of the egret, the bird of the city.
Shakers for salt and pepper and bottles of soy sauce and vinegar are also inspired by the architecture dotting the island.<
Tableware that Huang Chunmao designed for the 2014 APEC Summit in Beijing.
Before joining the CAFA, Huang was trained in China and the US.
The 2017 BRICS Summit is not his first time designing china tableware for state banquets. His works made a stunning debut in 2014, with the APEC Summit in Beijing.
Tableware that Huang Chunmao designed for the 2014 APEC Summit in Beijing./ CGTN Photo
In 2016, he brought his creativity to the dinner table at the G20 Summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, and earlier this year to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing.
"A state banquet is more than just an utterance in my understanding. It also represents the manners and customs of a nation, like how we tend to wear red in weddings," Huang noted.
"As a designer, I have to consider my clients and the general atmosphere. For state banquets, I focused on how to make it classic and simple, and tried to project a sense of authority," he continued.
But for first ladies' banquets, Huang tried to make china more feminine, elegant and close to everyday life. During the G20 Hangzhou Summit, the sets he designed for the first ladies' banquets were highly praised by the public and still rank among the best-selling china for the company that produced them.
"Welcoming guests with your most classic traditions is the way to show your politeness," Huang said.