Description

The Chángxìng (長興) workshop was a bow making workshop in Chengdu.

We know a great deal about this shop because it was the subject of Tan Danjiong's (T'an Tan-Chiung) "Investigative Report on Bow and Arrow Manufacture in Chengdu".1

History

The shop was founded by Wu Chengfu, a rural farmer who used to sell rice in Chengdu. He would enter the city at the south gate and proceed to the northwest, where he would pass by several bow making shops in the Yamen area of Tídū Jiē (提督街) or "Admiral's street" where he would often stop for a rest and watch the bowyers at work. 

He got intrigued by them and started an apprenticeship at 38, after which he founded his own shop in the same street. He also ran a little hotel above the shop, where archery examination candidates and their tutors could stay. The shop was quite successful until the state archery examinations were abolished in 1908.

The shop was inactive between 1911-1925, until an archery revival started in Chengdu and the workshop reopened at to adjacent buildings at No. 239 Xī Dàjiē (西大街) or "West Avenue", and later purchased another property opposite of the road at number 228 to serve as its retail outlet.

Lineage

Wu Chengfu passed on the business to his elder son Wu Hong Xing, who passed it on to his nephew Wu Shusen (1894-1990) who ran it when Tan Danjiong visited in 1942.

By this time Chángxìng of Chengdu and Jù Yuán Hào (聚元號) of Beijing were the only two bow making shops that were still in operation. Both seized production in the 1960s.

Stephen Selby interviewed Wu Shusen's daughter Wu Yonghua in 2000, who helped in the shop from 1932 onwards.2

Work by Chángxìng

Extant bows by Chángxìng are rare but encountered from time to time. They can be recognized by their relatively slender ears in profile, long nock section and the "secret" mark of the shop: A lozenge of black peach bark near the nock sections.

The secret mark of the Changxing workshop
The secret mark of the Changxing workshop.

 

Another beautiful bow, most likely an earlier work by this show, as auctioned at Sotheby's Home. It was misidentified and sold as a Japanese bow. Link to the auction.

 

Also see:

Measurements of a Changxing bow.

Notes
1. Tan Danjiong's (T'an Tan-Chiung) "Investigative Report on Bow and Arrow Manufacture in Chengdu" published in Academia Sinica Language and History Review, Taipei, 1951, an English version was published by the Society of Archer-Antiquaries in 1984.
2. The interview is published online at ATARN.ORG.

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