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Picture Mounting (Zhuangbiao)
A Chinese painting or piece of calligraphic work cannot be properly hung up for appreciation unless it is mounted. So, with the development of Chinese art in general came the special Chinese art of picture mounting, specially suited to xuan paper.
The process of mounting, put in a nutshell, consists in pasting a sheet of unrefined paper at the back of the picture. This serves not only to reinforce it but also give it a smooth appearance. Then, damask silk of a matching colour is pasted all round the painting to form a border. Finally, another sheet of paper is mounted at the back of the whole.
If the mounted work is to be in the form of a vertical scroll, a wooden roller is normally fixed at the bottom. This serves as the weight to hold the picture in place when hung up, and also helps to roll it up, when put away. The roller is sometimes decorated at both ends.
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Another horizontal stick is mounted inside on top, attached with silk ribbons for hanging.
Good mounting enhances the work of art whereas shoddy workmanship would make it less presentable. The saying that a finished painting depends for its excellence "30% on art itself but 70% on mounting" may be an exaggeration, but it does bring home the importance of mounting.
Chinese picture-mounters not only add charm to new paintings, but the veterans among them can repair and remount old works that were mounted but have deteriorated. This obviously requires superb craftsmanship involving more than a dozen painstaking steps. The old mounting must be taken apart, the antique colour has to be preserved, the damaged or missing parts have to be mended-all that with paper which must be identical with the original in texture. One can imagine how difficult the whole job is.