Before learning the history of Liuli Gongfang, we must first learn what it means. Liuli in Chinese translates to "crystal," but it has many other meanings to Chinese people. The first known use of liuli dates back two thousand years, in the tomb of Emperor Liu Sheng. They were a pair of ear cups, used exclusively by Emperor Liu Sheng as a vessel for wine. Liuli also holds meaning from the words of Tang poet Bai Juyi in Like Scattered Clouds, the Fragility of Liuli." And then there's the interpretation from the scripture of the Medicine Buddha: "May the moment come when I attain englightenment, the body, even the soul become as Liuli. Pure, transparent, flawless."
Liuli Gongfang is a company which looks to the past. Not of their own company, but of their country. When Chang Yi and Loretta H. Yang created the company, they looked back to the very beginnings of liuli in Chinese history. They drew many of their inspirations from looking back, making their designs a contemporary style of ancient sculptures, drawings, and temples. They drew from specific dynasties, from poems, and philosophers. Liuli Gongfang's motto is "to continuously create art for the good of the heart."
1987-1995 Chang and Loretta decided to use the Pate-de-verre technique because the lost-wax casting process reminded them of the methods used to produce Shang and Zhou Dynasty bronze work. They wanted to link everything they did to ancient Chinese past.
In a method dominated by the French, Chang and Loretta were determined to use the Pate-de-verre technique to create their liuli crystal sculptures. The method, albiet time consuming, yielded the best results for colored crystal. Their concetion in 1987 was not a fruitful one. Chang and Loretta, along with seven filmmakers, began to research the technique of Pate-de-verre while linking it to their past. After several million dollars, all Loretta and Chang had to show for their efforts were kilns full of broken glass.
In 1990, Liuli Gongfang created the gui series after the period of initial heavy loss. Two thousand years ago, ancient Chinese culture displayed the highest level of reverence for the heavens through gui. It meant, "a person's pursuit for all that was good." The gui series highlighted Liuli's use of stability, texture, and discipline. The details of the pieces were modest, but they overflowed with passion for their culture.
Chang and Loretta's idea of bringing back the past with a contemporary twist became a huge hit. They began to master the Pate-de-verre technique, and they began to redefine the way people looked at Chinese liuli. They found the perfect bridge of ancient Chinese philosophy under a contemporary setting and it became a hit across the world.
1996-1999 As time went on and Liuli Gongfang continued to use the French technique, their pieces began to transcend it's Pate-de-verre creation. The material became more important than the technique. Soon, the scale of the sculptures increased and Chang and Loretta began to explore the means of expression. They were broadening the creative scope of liuli Chinese crystal.
Loretta H. Yang began to pull inspiration from Buddhas and flowers. She had a great concern for the human race and the understanding of impermanence that was highlighted in the A Great Wish and Heed Attentively collections. In 1998, her work was put into the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the first Chinese art the museum had collected since the early 1900s.
2000-2004 As the new millennium came, Liuli Gongfang started to receive endorsements from the gifting divisions of the Emmy Awards and Academy awards. China, however, was soon faced with the SARS epidemic. Although there was chaos, Liuli Gongfang forded their own path. Loretta's style was expanding as she created The Cloud-Riding King Steed.
By 2001, Liuli Gongfang became so popular, Loretta was invited by the Bowers Museum in the United States to participate in a joint exhibition with American glass artist Dale Chihuly. She was also invited to exhibit in France, where she became the first Chinese artist to exhibit to do so.
2005-2011 In only twenty years, Liuli Gongfang became the world's first Chinese Liuli Pate-de-verre workshop. It became Liuli Gongfang's intention to merge the contemporary and the classic by means of craft. Xuanwu of the North is based off the Chinese Five Elements philosophy, where five mythical beasts represent the five elements.
Liuli Gongfang will continue to express the form and spirit of Chinese traditional culture through contemporary liuli.