Many people are familiar with the Liuligongfang story. It was founded in 1987 by Chang Yi and Loretta Yang, a director and actress whose work in films such as Jade Love and Kuei Mei, A Woman had earned them a place at the top of the film industry. When the two became a couple, they decided to leave the film business behind. Some 24 years later, Chang still has something to say about that decision.
"People say that I left the film scene because of Loretta," says Chang. "But the truth is that the decision whether or not to make films was entirely in my own hands."
Chang says that working for the Central Motion Picture Corporation in those days wasn't as good as people imagined. The studio cut the films any which way. The political guys controlled the ideology, and the mobsters controlled distribution. That, he says, is why he gave up filmmaking.
"Taiwanese film needs contemporary relevance. Otherwise, even given a few art-house directors, it has no point."
In making the transition from shooting films to creating liuli glass works, "relevance" has been Chang and Yang's byword.
How did they choose liuli? Chang needed a piece of crystal that would represent the fragility of love and marriage for their last movie together. While looking, he discovered modern French, Czech, and Swedish glass arts, but couldn't find any Chinese crystal. That lack gave him a new focus: establishing a modern Chinese crystal-making business.
Once he started working in the field, he learned the lost-wax method offered the most creative freedom of all the many ways to work glass.
"At the time, only the French were using the technique," recalls Chang. Liuli approached the noted French studio Daum for help, but was rejected. The couple then started their own R&D, paying for it by selling off all their personal property and going a further NT$70 million into debt.
Vincent Siew, then the minister of economic affairs, sent them to exhibit their work in Japan. There, they learned from a Japanese that the Han Dynasty's liuli double-handled cups had been made using a lost-wax technique. Discovering that China had had well-developed lost-wax techniques 2,100 years ago, Chang and Yang resolved to revive them and pass them on.
Lofty goals are nice in theory, but realizing them can be tough. The lost-wax process is very complicated, and Liuli had no experience to draw on. During those early years, they repeatedly spent six months or a year on projects that just didn't pan out. They tried and failed and tried again, testing Yang's patience. Chang position was to "just keep at it," and Yang did, slowly working out how our ancestors had done it.
In the animated film Nuwa that Chang is producing, the goddess Nuwa watches human beings rend the earth and sky with their fighting, burning, and killing. Saddened, she melts stones to create a multicolored patch for the sky and save the people of the earth. Like Nuwa, Yang has wrought and tempered, and ultimately succeeded in returning liuli to the global spotlight.