Root carving (根雕 gēn diāo) is a traditional art in China. It is a type of artwork featuring people, animals or objects carved out of natural or distorted tree roots (including tree trunks, burls and bamboo roots etc) through careful designing and artistic processing. For the most part, a root carving piece should be presented through the natural shapes of the root material, with only a small part being recreated by hand. So, root carving is also called "the art of the root (根雕艺术 gēn diāo yì shù)" or "root art".
The process of creating root art includes four steps:
1. Root selection (选材 xuǎn cái). This has to be done with respect to both quality and shape of the natural root. Quality refers to the breed and the firmness of the crude root.
2. Conception (构思 gòusī). A necessary feature of root-art creation is originality. While root carving, the creator must make the best use of the original shape of the root and not alter its original shape so he or she can explore its natural beauty. With this in mind, the creator can then use his or her imagination and find the best concept.
3. Processing (雕刻 diāokè). When the concept is clarified, the superfluous roots can be sewn or clipped, and the bark removed. Then, it is necessary to polish the bald root with abrasive paper.
4. Coloring and lacquering (涂色 túsè 与上漆 shàngqī). This is done for the benefit of antisepsis and collecting purposes. Two methods are commonly employed for coloring: one is to wax it so the artwork takes on its original color, which is simple and elegant; the other is to stain it with bronze lacquer, which can add a touch of antiquity to the root.