皇帝的盛宴──「中國宮殿」打造海外夢幻餐廳

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2000 / 6月

文‧蔡文婷 圖‧卜華志


中國菜、法國菜和義大利菜是世界三大名菜,而中國人的脾胃,即使出了國,行程中依然少不了要來上幾頓「中國菜」,中國餐館也隨著華人移民、台灣遊客的腳蹤越開越多。然而,忙著將北京烤鴨糖醋排骨送進口中的顧客,不知道有沒有人好奇,國外考究的中國餐廳裡,金碧輝煌、雕樑畫棟的宮殿式裝潢,究竟在哪裡訂製的?設計裝潢師傅是中國人嗎?

少有人知道,海外有三百多家的中餐館,上從天花藻井木刻花窗到地上的團花地毯、門前石獅,幾乎都由台灣「中國宮殿裝飾工程公司」的宋家父子,從台灣以手工製作、整櫃輸出方式越洋完成。這裡面,除了獨特的生意眼,不足為外人道的業務打拚,還有著一份文化的執著與驕傲。


說起中國建築,層疊的斗拱上架著飛翹的屋簷、朱紅柱子頂著金碧五彩的龍鳳藻井,這樣「宮殿式」的建築大概是人們最為熟悉的中國樣式。不論海內外,像國內的圓山飯店、歷史博物館、故宮博物院、中山樓,或是海外唐人街的牌樓、華麗的中國餐館,四十多年歷史的「中國宮殿裝飾公司」,也就一路跟著這樣的中國式建築,生意由國內遍及到海外任何「有華人的地方」。

中國宮殿到台灣

民國三十八年,山東大學經濟系畢業的宋膺帶著簡單的行李,跟著東大流亡學生來到台灣,就在國立台北大學前身的行政專校任教。對國畫、書法、京劇都頗有研究,還拉得一手好二胡的宋膺,教的雖然是經濟學,然而他的書架上卻有許許多多傳統建築、中國圖案及彩繪的書籍。

民國五十年代,隨著政府遷台及復興中華文化運動的鼓吹,許多官方建築紛紛趨向於北方華麗厚重的中國宮庭風格,尤其每逢雙十節、光復節、行憲紀念日,公家機關大門或是主要街道更會搭起一座座中國式的牌樓。對彩繪十分有興趣的宋膺也就找了幾個學徒,開始接攬這些節慶牌樓的生意,還有當時的圓山飯店後廳、中泰賓館、歷史博物館,甚至台南孔廟的彩繪工作都是他們的傑作。

有別於台灣民間寺廟以花鳥或民間故事為內容的南方彩繪,宋膺的彩繪是以龍鳳為主,加上一些團花如意、吉祥卍字等裝飾圖案的北方彩繪,其中最重要而困難的部分,是可以使圖案呈現立體而細緻的「瀝粉」工藝。

擠出來的立體感

十五歲初中畢業就進入中國宮殿當學徒,工作了三十多年的老師傅雷永順解釋:高高在上的中國天花,是由一塊塊一尺半見方左右的木板拼組而成,這每一小塊天花板,先要用豬血加石粉打底,填平木材的縫隙,上過底漆後,然後在平滑的木板上蓋上有無數細洞的設計圖,灑上一層紅粉,粉末漏過點點小洞,就能快速地勾畫出設計圖案的草圖。

接著就要上瀝粉,材料是熬煮的水膠加上石粉所調成的膏狀物,將之裝入腳踏車內胎的橡皮管,前端接上一個圓錐形的漏斗,依照線條粗細,漏斗有著不同大小的孔隙,然後就像作蛋糕擠花一般,一邊擠出膏粉,一邊勾勒出繁複、立體的龍鳳圖案線條來。瀝粉工作完成後,接著上色。為求圖案顏色不至於太過生豔,上色講究「韻法」,也就是在色與色之間還要加上細細的白色線條,讓紅黃藍綠金這樣強烈的五色顯得協調,稱為「退暈」。

每一小塊的天花板上,都要畫上如此繁複的圖案,全憑師父一雙巧手。然而除了繁複,長達一、兩公尺的花邊橫樑,對師父更是一大考驗。「就像寫毛筆字一樣,綿長的瀝粉線條要勻稱流暢、一氣呵成,考得是師父的懸腕功夫,」雷永順指出。雷永順記得已經過世的老老闆宋膺,當時常常讓學徒們比賽,懸著腕在木板上拉線條,看誰拉得又直又快。

中國商展的門面

六十年代,台灣經濟起飛,許多廠家都經常參加國外的大型商展。如何在成千上萬的攤位中,凸顯中國館的特色,宮殿式的裝潢無疑是最佳選擇。這時原本只以彩繪為主的中國宮殿,也擴大成有木工、雕刻、瀝粉、油漆四大部門的裝飾工程公司。民國六十年代,中國宮殿裝飾公司參加兩次世界級的商展,都為中國館贏得了最佳設計獎。

宋膺沒有想到的是,參與國際商展中國館的設計,更使得他未來的市場完全移向海外。因為參展商家中,對中國館留下印象的,不只是外國人,還有許許多多的海外華僑,尤其是餐飲業的老闆,一看到中國館那種「中國宮殿」般的設計,都不禁喜出望外,認為這正是他們想要的中國氣氛。

於是,從歐洲的德、法、英、荷、盧森堡、義大利、西班牙、捷克、波蘭等,到中東的敘利亞、黎巴嫩、聯合大公國,還有加拿大、美國到巴拿馬、哥倫比亞,包括日本橫濱中華街一半的店家,只要是看到雕樑畫棟、龍鳳呈祥的宮殿式裝潢,問老闆可是「宋先生」幫你們作的,大都錯不了。「我們大約在二十七個國家,裝修過三百多家中餐館!」現任中國宮殿總經理、負責國內聯繫工作的宋家大媳婦馮小華表示。

中國味道特別濃

海外中國餐廳的客人,除了思鄉的華人,主要還是當地人士,西方人吃飯尤重氣氛,海外中國餐廳的中國風味也特別明顯濃烈。大門上,朱紅的斗拱架著綠色的屋瓦,門前一對雪白的石獅子。一入餐廳的等候區,雕龍的皇帝寶座,兩邊擺著一對太平象,還提供客人穿著清裝拍照。往內走,立式的銅宮燈、與人等高的鬥彩花瓶、木頭雕花隔座兩邊迎人,走道盡頭是一個供桌,上面擺著福祿壽三星。腳下五福捧壽的地毯,用餐的仿明式樣檯凳、青花碗盤,庭院中的奇石水池、六角涼亭……,舉凡所見所用的一切,宋家的「中國宮殿」都完全在台灣生產,再以貨櫃輸出。

在台北士林的工廠裡,刻花部門的工人忙著用機器線鋸割出種種鏤空的木頭裝飾圖案,有的師父則攤開數十把雕刻刀,以手工雕著一隻隻栩栩如生的鵲鳥,工作區的牆面則掛滿了數百種吉祥圖案的版型。木工區的師父則忙著做仿古木櫃、隔間用的隔座等大型家具。木工、刻花完成後交給油漆部門上色,長年累月的使用下,工作檯已經堆上厚厚的一層油漆。而做瀝粉的師父們,由於台灣工資的高漲,彩繪圖案較過去簡單,二來適應新的裝潢風潮,已將瀝粉的手藝轉向使用在玻璃彩繪上。

這些材料,都根據中國宮殿的台灣設計師前往國外現場丈量的規格尺寸製作,大型如涼亭、屋頂或是圓拱門必須可以拆組,以減少貨運空間。當國外隔間、水電、空調處理完畢後,台灣製造的材料就分類包裝,裝入貨櫃,到了海外現場,直接依裝箱單找出貨品,將材料分別放在施工位置,參照設計圖,即使是國外工人,也能在最短的時間內完成組裝。

木頭是活的

不過,中國的設計出了洋,最難適應的是迥異的氣候環境。「尤其是木刻的東西,因為木頭是活的。」第二代的掌門人宋文堯表示,才自森林中砍伐下來的木材吃了水分就脹,吐了水分會縮,必須經過幾年的陰乾才會定性,才能拿來作家具。然而即使是已經定性的木材,一旦到了北方冷國,在長時間暖氣的烘烤下,幾乎都會爆裂。因此有接榫的大型花窗、屏風或圓拱門等木件,都不能上膠或上釘,而且要在木頭接榫的地方留有伸縮的空間。宋文堯記得,他們在美國紐約的唐人街做過一座中國牌坊,在台灣廣為使用數百年的陶瓦,竟然耐不住大雪的冰凍,當年冬天瓦上的釉色就紛紛剝裂,他們還遠道前去補了半天。

而隨著台灣工資的高漲,過去一些繁複圖案的瀝粉天花板、木刻配件或原木家具,也都慢慢地有了其他的替代材料。「不簡化,是無法生存的,」宋文堯表示。像是在餐廳裡看到一個中國式人字形的捲棚屋頂,那高掛中間的紅樑其實是高壓紙筒做的,輕便、便宜的紙筒先包上一層紗布,再上紅漆,除非敲上一敲,看不出來是紙做的。繁複的斗拱,上面頂的是玻璃纖維的屋頂,並不需要分擔巨大重頂,因此也就不必費工地用接榫方式完成。

而一座高達六公尺多的六角涼亭,飛翹的屋頂是由翻模的六塊玻璃纖維拼組而成,支撐的柱子也是打了鐵樁的玻璃纖維,不過中國式向外彎曲的女兒靠欄杆還是木頭的。一座模仿大陸蘇州網師園的涼亭,有著傳統的樣式和科技新式的內裡。

「我們做的當然都是仿的,但是古式新作,還是希望仿的很真,」宋文堯表示,就像他很欣賞的一位大廚,在做茄汁明蝦的時候,總要在醬汁裡放進一點新鮮的蕃茄碎丁,道理相通,「重點就是用什麼細節、什麼材料,把『質』給表現出來。」因此,即使許多配件已經都有替代材料出現,但是宋文堯還是會在一些容易看到或接觸的地方保留一些純手工、見功夫的木頭作品。

宮殿退位,庭園當道

幸運的是,現在國外的中餐廳也不再嚮往過去那樣「滿滿」的宮殿式設計,而走向較簡單、休閒的中國庭園風格。「有的老板,一看到我們的名片上印著『中國宮殿』,立刻就說:我不要像廟宇那樣的設計,」宋文堯表示,只要幾個扇形花窗或花鳥屏風等中國元素,就可以在素雅的空間裡,展現中國精神。因此,大約美金兩、三萬,他們就能裝修出一個怡人的中國餐廳來。過去給侍者穿著的鳳仙裝,或是舞龍舞獅那樣誇張的中國趣味,現在的歐洲客人可是受不了的。

一位已經給宋文堯設計過三家飯店的老闆,最近在法國尼斯海邊新開了一家大型中餐廳,經過宋文堯的改裝,原本是貨艙的賣場和大型的停車場,搖身一變成了一座生意盎然的中國花園,假山上涓瀑流洩,池中萬條錦鯉悠游,跨過曲折石橋,還可以到中國涼亭憑欄賞景。這個中國花園現在成了當地另一個新的觀光據點,當地市政府還在附近規劃免費停車場,供觀光客停留拍照。

主廚設計

設計裝修過約三百家的中國餐廳,有的現代簡約,有的富麗堂皇。宋文堯覺得,「真正好的餐廳,是要能展現一種思想的『主廚級』餐廳,」什麼菜配什麼酒,飯後用什麼甜點,餐具如何搭配都不能隨意。而這樣主廚級餐廳的裝修,也一樣要有「主廚級」的設計理念。宋文堯舉例,他在荷蘭為一位養錦鯉的廣東老闆設計過餐廳,配合老闆年年得到大獎的錦鯉,他在大門設計了一座小木橋,讓客人可以跨水而過,欣賞游魚。餐廳裡,所有隔座的噴沙玻璃上都是錦鯉的圖案,而中心地方還有一座古董櫃,擺滿錦鯉的得獎獎盃,充分顯現老闆的獨特風格。

一九七○年代初,隨著美國總統尼克森訪問中國,引起全世界一陣中國熱潮,連帶著海外的中國餐廳也跟著門庭若市。近年來中國市場開放,中國學、中國熱更是方興未艾,上中國餐廳的年輕一輩顧客層也越來越多。為了吸引年輕人,在設計上,宋文堯更捨棄繁重的宮殿式配件,就是明亮清爽的白牆,紅色格子桌布,然後加上刻有中國文字的隔屏,和黑色鐵管仿明的座椅,呈現的又是一種年輕現代感的中國風。

仿的真

在所有的餐館設計中,宋文堯十分喜愛自己在巴黎香榭大道附近,高級大使館區所設計的「正陽大酒樓」。在那個名流雲集的地段上,他想要給外國人的印象是「一個中國南方的大戶人家」。取擷蘇州庭園的精華,一進門的挑高天花板上,是鏤空透光的木刻菱花窗,搭配五彩富麗的藻井,給人一種細緻又華貴的氣氛。進入餐廳之前的走道,兩邊各有一幅十英呎長、純手工的清底木刻掛飾,一幅是百鳥朝鳳,一幅是清明上河圖。

餐廳裡面,壁面全部以鳳鳥絲綢繃牆,那塊絲綢圖案與當時英國女皇一件旗袍的布花相同。每一個細節都會帶給顧客一種讚嘆,也因為這家餐廳,為宋文堯帶來了包括敘利亞親王等名流的生意。然而餐廳的高檔氣氛,除了帶來名流富商,有趣的是,也同時引來了小偷的覬覦。等候區一個大的古董櫃子,上面擺了二十多件外國人最心儀的中國瓷器,這些宋文堯自台灣鶯歌買來的仿古瓷器,竟被小偷誤以為全是真古董,開幕不久就被盜偷一空。

歐洲中國風

以絲綢來繃牆,宋文堯表示是來自英國布萊頓宮的靈感。在十七、八世紀的時候,歐洲吹起中國風格。那是一種對遙遠中國幻想下,以歐洲人的思維所創造出來的中國風格。位於英國南方海岸的布萊頓皇宮就是十八世紀末英王喬治四世一手籌畫的中國別宮。

設計師以出使中國隨團畫家筆下的畫稿為藍圖,宴會廳牆上貼的民俗壁畫裡,全是一些有著非東非西、奇異臉孔的中國侍者或皇帝;天花板上,吊掛著一座一噸重的巨龍吐信水晶吊燈。其他廳室裡,或是一座瓷塔與蓮花燈,或是大紅燈籠下一個點頭官娃娃,嵌了滿牆的青花瓷器,都叫中國人感到似曾相識,卻又十分詭異和陌生。

今天,世界的距離越來越近,海外的中國風格或許仍帶著些許「末代皇帝」的浪漫情調,但是樣貌已然不再充滿奇想,而這些中國宮殿也不再是王公貴冑的專享。出了門,轉個彎,走進一間富麗堂皇的中國餐廳,在光線朦朧的宮燈下,就著木刻花鳥屏風、雅致的青花餐盤,細細品味口中美味的中國菜,就能圓一個中國夢了。

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Tsai Wen-ting /photos courtesy of Pu Hua-chih /tr. by Robert Taylor

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When one talks of Chinese architecture, what people are probably most familiar with is multi-layered dougong block-and-bracket structures under flying eaves, and vermilion pillars supporting square-paneled "caisson" ceilings painted with dragon-and-phoenix designs in gold, green and a rainbow of other colors-the "palatial" style. This style can be found everywhere, from Taipei's Grand Hotel, National Museum of History, National Palace Museum and Chungshan Hall, to the ceremonial arches and sumptuous restaurants of overseas Chinatowns. And the spread of this Chinese architectural style has carried the business of the China Palace Art and Painting Company, established over 40 years ago, from Taiwan to "everywhere in the world where there are Chinese."

The Chinese palace comes to Taiwan

In 1949 Sung Ying, a graduate of Shandong University's department of economics, came to Taiwan as a refugee with little more than the clothes he stood up in. He took up a teaching post at an administrative school which later formed the core of the law and business college at National Chung Hsing University, and has now become National Taipei University. Sung was very knowledgeable about Chinese traditional painting, calligraphy and Peking opera, and was also a dab hand at playing the erhu (a Chinese traditional fiddle). Although he taught economics, his bookshelves held many works on traditional architecture, Chinese design motifs and caihui-decorative color painting.

In the 1960s, encouraged by a government-sponsored campaign for a renaissance of Chinese culture, many official buildings were built in a style reminiscent of the ornate, solemn palace architecture of northern China, and for occasions such as National Day, Taiwan Retrocession Day and Constitution Day, Chinese-style ceremonial arches would be put up over the entrances to government agencies and across major roads. Sung Ying was very interested in caihui, so he recruited several apprentices and began painting these ceremonial arches. His work also graced such buildings as the pavilions at the rear of the Grand Hotel, the Magnolia Hotel, the National Museum of History, and even the Confucian Temple in Tainan.

In contrast to the southern Chinese style of decoration typical of Taiwanese folk temples, which features bird-and-flower paintings or folk stories, Sung Ying did decorations in the northern style, the main themes being dragons and phoenixes, along with some floral-medallion ruyi scepter symbols, auspicious swastikas and other decorative motifs. The most important-and difficult-element in such decoration is the lifen ("wet powder") technique, which can give the designs an appearance of depth and detail.

The icing on the cake

Master craftsman Lei Yung-shun joined China Palace as an apprentice at the age of 15 on graduating from junior high school, and has been with the company for 30 years. He explains that the high Chinese caisson ceilings are made up of many individual wooden panels around one-and-a-half feet square. Each panel is first covered with a filler mixed from pig's blood and lime to fill in the cracks and create a smooth surface. Then it is given a coat of base paint, after which a fine stencil is laid over the panel, and a red powder is sprinkled onto the stencil. The powder passes through the tiny holes in the stencil to quickly create the outline of a design motif.

Then it is time to apply the lifen, which is made from a boiled water-based glue to which lime is added to create a thick paste. The paste is put into a rubber tube-made from a bicycle inner tube-with a funnel fitted to one end. According to the thickness of lines desired, different-sized nozzles are attached to the funnel, and then, just like adding piping to a cake, the paste is squeezed out through the nozzle to produce the raised lines of the complex dragon and phoenix motifs. An important step in this painting process is adding fine white lines between the different strong colors-red, yellow, blue, green and gold-to make them appear more harmonious and less gaudy.

Painting such complex designs onto each little ceiling panel takes a great deal of skill, but an even greater test of the craftsmen's ability is painting lines along decorated beams which are one to two meters long. "It's just like doing calligraphy with a writing brush-the line of lifen has to be even and smooth, and you have to finish it in one go. It's all in the wrist action," says Lei Yung-shun. Lei still recalls how, when he was an apprentice, his late boss Sung Ying would often have the apprentices compete to draw lines along wooden boards, moving their wrists smoothly at a constant height above the work, to see who could draw their lines the straightest and the quickest.

Exhibition showcase

In the 1970s, as Taiwan's economy took off, many companies began to take part in major overseas trade fairs. Palace style decoration was undoubtedly an ideal choice to make the Chinese pavilion stand out among the thousands of other exhibition stands. In response to this market China Palace, which had previously mainly concentrated on caihui decoration, expanded into an all-round interior decorating company with four major departments-carpentry, woodcarving, lifen decoration and painting. In the 1970s, Chinese exhibition pavilions designed and constructed by China Palace took the "best design" prizes at two world-class trade fairs.

It never occurred to Sung Ying that designing Chinese pavilions for international trade fairs would take his future market entirely overseas. For the pavilions not only made an impression on foreign exhibitors and visitors, but also on many overseas Chinese-particularly restaurant owners, who on seeing their palatial style were overjoyed to have found just the kind of Chinese style they were seeking for their eateries.

Hence, if in Chinese restaurants in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and North and South America, or even in Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan, you see palace-style decor with carved beams, painted columns and dragon and phoenix motifs, you might ask the owner whether the interior decor was done by "Mr. Sung"; in most cases, you won't be far wrong. "We've decorated over 300 Chinese restaurants in about 27 countries," says China Palace manager Feng Hsiao-hua, the founder's daughter-in-law, who is in charge of liaison work in Taiwan.

A strong Chinese flavor

Apart from homesick Chinese, the main clientele for Chinese restaurants are local people. When Westerners eat out, they set great store by the restaurant's ambience, so the Chinese atmosphere in Chinese restaurants overseas is particularly strong. Above the main doorway, one may see vermilion dougong brackets supporting a green tiled roof, and outside the entrance, a pair of snow-white stone lions. Then, on entering the restaurant's waiting area, there may be a dragon-carved imperial throne flanked by a pair of elephants bearing vases on their backs, symbolizing peace, and Qing-dynasty dress for guests to have their photos taken in. Further inside, one may be greeted on both sides by palace-style brass standard lamps, multi-colored vases as tall as a person, and carved wooden seating partitions. At the end of the aisle one glimpses an altar table, on which stand figures of Fu, Lu and Shou, the three star-deities responsible for the blessings of happiness, high office and longevity. Everything one sees or uses-from the carpet underfoot, with its symbolic pattern of five bats around a stylized shou ("longevity") character, the Ming-style chairs and tables, and the blue-and-white porcelain crockery, to the pool in the garden, decorated with strangely shaped stones, and the hexagonal shade pavilions-was made in Taiwan by the Sung family's China Palace company and shipped across the seas in containers.

In China Palace's factory in the Shihlin district of Taipei City, workers in the woodcarving department use mechanical fretsaws to first cut out all kinds of decorative openwork designs in wooden panels, while craftsmen with dozens of carving tools laid out beside them carve out one lifelike magpie after another, completely by hand. The walls of the work area are festooned with hundreds of stencils of auspicious motifs. Meanwhile in the carpentry department, the craftsmen are busy making large items of furniture, such as imitation antique wooden cabinets and seating partitions. After the carpentry and carving is complete, the items are passed to the painting department to be painted. After years of use, the workbenches there are covered with thick layers of paint. Because of rising wage levels in Taiwan, the craftsmen who do the lifen decoration produce simpler designs than in the past, and in response to changing tastes in interior decor they have begun using the same skills to do color decoration on glass.

The items produced here are all made to the dimensions measured out by China Palace's Taiwanese designers on their visits to customers' premises overseas. Large items such as shade pavilions, roofs or moon arch doorways have to be made in several pieces for assembly on site, to reduce their shipping volume. Once the installation of partition walls, mains services and air conditioning are complete at the overseas customer's premises, the items made in Taiwan are packed according to type, and loaded into shipping containers. At the customer's premises, they are unloaded according to the packing list and placed directly at the point where they are to be installed. With the drawings provided, they can be quickly assembled on-site even by local workers.

A strong Chinese flavor

Apart from homesick Chinese, the main clientele for Chinese restaurants are local people. When Westerners eat out, they set great store by the restaurant's ambience, so the Chinese atmosphere in Chinese restaurants overseas is particularly strong. Above the main doorway, one may see vermilion dougong brackets supporting a green tiled roof, and outside the entrance, a pair of snow-white stone lions. Then, on entering the restaurant's waiting area, there may be a dragon-carved imperial throne flanked by a pair of elephants bearing vases on their backs, symbolizing peace, and Qing-dynasty dress for guests to have their photos taken in. Further inside, one may be greeted on both sides by palace-style brass standard lamps, multi-colored vases as tall as a person, and carved wooden seating partitions. At the end of the aisle one glimpses an altar table, on which stand figures of Fu, Lu and Shou, the three star-deities responsible for the blessings of happiness, high office and longevity. Everything one sees or uses-from the carpet underfoot, with its symbolic pattern of five bats around a stylized shou ("longevity") character, the Ming-style chairs and tables, and the blue-and-white porcelain crockery, to the pool in the garden, decorated with strangely shaped stones, and the hexagonal shade pavilions-was made in Taiwan by the Sung family's China Palace company and shipped across the seas in containers.

In China Palace's factory in the Shihlin district of Taipei City, workers in the woodcarving department use mechanical fretsaws to first cut out all kinds of decorative openwork designs in wooden panels, while craftsmen with dozens of carving tools laid out beside them carve out one lifelike magpie after another, completely by hand. The walls of the work area are festooned with hundreds of stencils of auspicious motifs. Meanwhile in the carpentry department, the craftsmen are busy making large items of furniture, such as imitation antique wooden cabinets and seating partitions. After the carpentry and carving is complete, the items are passed to the painting department to be painted. After years of use, the workbenches there are covered with thick layers of paint. Because of rising wage levels in Taiwan, the craftsmen who do the lifen decoration produce simpler designs than in the past, and in response to changing tastes in interior decor they have begun using the same skills to do color decoration on glass.

The items produced here are all made to the dimensions measured out by China Palace's Taiwanese designers on their visits to customers' premises overseas. Large items such as shade pavilions, roofs or moon arch doorways have to be made in several pieces for assembly on site, to reduce their shipping volume. Once the installation of partition walls, mains services and air conditioning are complete at the overseas customer's premises, the items made in Taiwan are packed according to type, and loaded into shipping containers. At the customer's premises, they are unloaded according to the packing list and placed directly at the point where they are to be installed. With the drawings provided, they can be quickly assembled on-site even by local workers.

A living material

However, when these Chinese products go overseas, the hardest thing for them to adapt to is the climatic conditions at their destination. "That goes especially for things carved out of wood, because wood is a living material," says second-generation proprietor Peter Sung. Timber recently cut from the forest expands when it absorbs moisture and shrinks when it loses moisture, and has to be stored for many years in a cool dry environment before it stabilizes and is ready to be used to make furniture. Nonetheless, even properly seasoned wood is almost sure to split if it is shipped to a cold northerly country and subjected to long periods in the dry heat of centrally heated rooms. Therefore, jointed wooden constructions such as large ornamental window frames, carved screens or moon arches cannot be glued or nailed together, and space has to be left at the joints for expansion and contraction. Peter Sung also recounts how once when the company put up a Chinese ceremonial arch in New York's Chinatown, the ceramic tiles-of a type widely used in Taiwan for centuries-were not up to the cold of the continental winter. In the first year the colored glaze on them flaked off, so Sung had to send staff all the way to New York to replace them.

With rising wage levels in Taiwan, some items such as lifen-painted ceilings and carved wooden accessories with complex designs, or solid-wood furniture, have gradually been replaced by other materials. "If we don't simplify these things, we can't survive," says Peter Sung. For instance, nowadays when one sees a Chinese-style roof with upswept eaves, the red beam high up in the middle is actually made from a tube of compressed paper. The light, cheap paper tube is wrapped in a layer of gauze and covered in red paint. Unless you actually tapped it, you wouldn't know it was paper. The complex dougong brackets only have to support a lightweight fiberglass roof, so there is need to go to the trouble of making them with a mortise-and-tenon construction.

Meanwhile the roof of a six-meter-tall hexagonal pavilion, with its flying eaves, is assembled from six pieces of molded fiberglass, and the pillars which support it are also fiberglass, each with a steel rod through the middle. However, the Chinese-style outward-curved handrail is still made of wood. A pavilion like this, modeled on those in the Net Master's Garden in Suzhou in mainland China, has a traditional appearance but a modern construction.

"Of course everything we make is imitation, but even when we use modern methods we hope the effect is convincing," says Peter Sung. Just as one chef he particularly admires always adds some diced fresh tomato when making prawns in tomato sauce, Sung feels that "what is most important is to use the right details and materials to create the 'feel' that you want." Therefore, even though substitute materials are available for many accessory items, at the points where things will be seen close up or even touched, Sung continues to use many demandingly handcrafted wooden items.

A living material

However, when these Chinese products go overseas, the hardest thing for them to adapt to is the climatic conditions at their destination. "That goes especially for things carved out of wood, because wood is a living material," says second-generation proprietor Peter Sung. Timber recently cut from the forest expands when it absorbs moisture and shrinks when it loses moisture, and has to be stored for many years in a cool dry environment before it stabilizes and is ready to be used to make furniture. Nonetheless, even properly seasoned wood is almost sure to split if it is shipped to a cold northerly country and subjected to long periods in the dry heat of centrally heated rooms. Therefore, jointed wooden constructions such as large ornamental window frames, carved screens or moon arches cannot be glued or nailed together, and space has to be left at the joints for expansion and contraction. Peter Sung also recounts how once when the company put up a Chinese ceremonial arch in New York's Chinatown, the ceramic tiles-of a type widely used in Taiwan for centuries-were not up to the cold of the continental winter. In the first year the colored glaze on them flaked off, so Sung had to send staff all the way to New York to replace them.

With rising wage levels in Taiwan, some items such as lifen-painted ceilings and carved wooden accessories with complex designs, or solid-wood furniture, have gradually been replaced by other materials. "If we don't simplify these things, we can't survive," says Peter Sung. For instance, nowadays when one sees a Chinese-style roof with upswept eaves, the red beam high up in the middle is actually made from a tube of compressed paper. The light, cheap paper tube is wrapped in a layer of gauze and covered in red paint. Unless you actually tapped it, you wouldn't know it was paper. The complex dougong brackets only have to support a lightweight fiberglass roof, so there is need to go to the trouble of making them with a mortise-and-tenon construction.

Meanwhile the roof of a six-meter-tall hexagonal pavilion, with its flying eaves, is assembled from six pieces of molded fiberglass, and the pillars which support it are also fiberglass, each with a steel rod through the middle. However, the Chinese-style outward-curved handrail is still made of wood. A pavilion like this, modeled on those in the Net Master's Garden in Suzhou in mainland China, has a traditional appearance but a modern construction.

"Of course everything we make is imitation, but even when we use modern methods we hope the effect is convincing," says Peter Sung. Just as one chef he particularly admires always adds some diced fresh tomato when making prawns in tomato sauce, Sung feels that "what is most important is to use the right details and materials to create the 'feel' that you want." Therefore, even though substitute materials are available for many accessory items, at the points where things will be seen close up or even touched, Sung continues to use many demandingly handcrafted wooden items.

Palace gives way to garden

Fortunately, Chinese restaurateurs overseas also no longer demand the kind of "all-over-ornate" palatial style of the past, but are tending towards a simpler, more informal Chinese garden style. "When some restaurant owners see the name 'China Palace' on our business cards, they immediately say: 'I don't want the place to look like a temple,'" remarks Peter Sung. He notes that a Chinese ambience can be generated with just a few Chinese elements such as a fan-shaped ornamental window or a bird-and-flower screen, placed in a neutral, elegant space. Thus the company can create a pleasing Chinese restaurant for US$20-30,000. European customers today no longer go for an overblown Chinese style with waitresses in elaborate Chinese dress, or dragon and lion dancers.

A restaurateur who had already had Peter Sung design three restaurants for him, recently opened a large new Chinese restaurant on the seafront at Nice in the south of France. The premises-formerly a supermarket and large car park-were transformed by Sung into a bustling Chinese garden, with cascades splashing over rocks, and shoals of goldfish swimming in a pool crossed by a zig-zag stone bridge leading to a Chinese pavilion where one can lean out over the railing to enjoy the view. This Chinese garden has now become a new local tourist attraction, and the local government has even built a free car park close by to allow visitors to stop and take photographs.

Palace gives way to garden

Fortunately, Chinese restaurateurs overseas also no longer demand the kind of "all-over-ornate" palatial style of the past, but are tending towards a simpler, more informal Chinese garden style. "When some restaurant owners see the name 'China Palace' on our business cards, they immediately say: 'I don't want the place to look like a temple,'" remarks Peter Sung. He notes that a Chinese ambience can be generated with just a few Chinese elements such as a fan-shaped ornamental window or a bird-and-flower screen, placed in a neutral, elegant space. Thus the company can create a pleasing Chinese restaurant for US$20-30,000. European customers today no longer go for an overblown Chinese style with waitresses in elaborate Chinese dress, or dragon and lion dancers.

A restaurateur who had already had Peter Sung design three restaurants for him, recently opened a large new Chinese restaurant on the seafront at Nice in the south of France. The premises-formerly a supermarket and large car park-were transformed by Sung into a bustling Chinese garden, with cascades splashing over rocks, and shoals of goldfish swimming in a pool crossed by a zig-zag stone bridge leading to a Chinese pavilion where one can lean out over the railing to enjoy the view. This Chinese garden has now become a new local tourist attraction, and the local government has even built a free car park close by to allow visitors to stop and take photographs.

Cordon bleu design

Peter Sung has designed around 300 Chinese restaurants, some modern and simple, some grand and ornate. He feels that "a really good restaurant is a 'cordon bleu' establishment where you can see that thought has gone into everything." In a top restaurant, the wine should match the food, the sweet should match the main course, and the choice of tableware shouldn't be slapdash either. By the same token, the decor ought to be of "cordon bleu" quality too. For instance, says Sung, he designed a restaurant for a Cantonese owner in Holland who raises prize goldfish. To go with the owner's goldfish, Sung incorporated a little wooden bridge in the design of the restaurant's entrance, to allow patrons to step across water and enjoy the sight of the fish swimming below. Inside, he put images of goldfish on all the frosted-glass partitions, and in the center he placed an antique-style cabinet filled with the cups the owner had won for his fish. Thus the design of the restaurant fully expressed the owner's individuality.

US president Nixon's visit to the Chinese mainland in 1972 sparked off a worldwide wave of interest in China, and this brought a big upsurge in business for Chinese restaurants overseas. In recent years, the opening of Chinese markets to the outside world has driven fascination with China to even greater heights, and Chinese restaurants are attracting more and more younger customers. In design terms, to attract young people Peter Sung is tending even more to abandon ornate palace-style accessories in favor of bright, fresh white walls and red gingham tablecloths, along with movable screens carved with Chinese characters, and chairs made from black steel tubing in a Ming-dynasty style, to create a Chinese style with a young and modern feel.

Cordon bleu design

Peter Sung has designed around 300 Chinese restaurants, some modern and simple, some grand and ornate. He feels that "a really good restaurant is a 'cordon bleu' establishment where you can see that thought has gone into everything." In a top restaurant, the wine should match the food, the sweet should match the main course, and the choice of tableware shouldn't be slapdash either. By the same token, the decor ought to be of "cordon bleu" quality too. For instance, says Sung, he designed a restaurant for a Cantonese owner in Holland who raises prize goldfish. To go with the owner's goldfish, Sung incorporated a little wooden bridge in the design of the restaurant's entrance, to allow patrons to step across water and enjoy the sight of the fish swimming below. Inside, he put images of goldfish on all the frosted-glass partitions, and in the center he placed an antique-style cabinet filled with the cups the owner had won for his fish. Thus the design of the restaurant fully expressed the owner's individuality.

US president Nixon's visit to the Chinese mainland in 1972 sparked off a worldwide wave of interest in China, and this brought a big upsurge in business for Chinese restaurants overseas. In recent years, the opening of Chinese markets to the outside world has driven fascination with China to even greater heights, and Chinese restaurants are attracting more and more younger customers. In design terms, to attract young people Peter Sung is tending even more to abandon ornate palace-style accessories in favor of bright, fresh white walls and red gingham tablecloths, along with movable screens carved with Chinese characters, and chairs made from black steel tubing in a Ming-dynasty style, to create a Chinese style with a young and modern feel.

Convincing imitations

Of all the Chinese restaurants Peter Sung has designed, a particular favorite of his is the Tse Yang Restaurant in the diplomatic quarter of Paris, close to the Champs Elysees. In that high-class area, frequented by the rich and famous, the impression he wanted to give patrons was that of the home of a wealthy family in southern China. In a design which draws on the spirit of the gardens of Suzhou, just inside the entrance the wall is pierced high up by a carved wooden ornamental window in a rhombus pattern, which lets light shine on the sumptuously painted panels of the high caisson ceiling, to impart a sense of intricate workmanship and opulence. To either side of the aisle in the front of the restaurant, there hang a pair of ten-foot-long, hand-carved bas-relief wooden wall panels, one depicting a hundred birds paying homage to the phoenix, and the other portraying a riverside scene in the Song-dynasty capital Kaifeng on Tomb Sweeping Day.

Inside the restaurant, the walls are all covered with silk brocade, in a phoenix pattern of the same design as a cheongsam worn by the Queen of England at the time. Every detail is apt to make customers gasp in admiration, and this restaurant brought Peter Sung business from many high-class customers, including a Syrian prince. However, the restaurant's swanky atmosphere also attracted the attention of a different kind of "clientele." On a large antique-style cabinet in the waiting area, Sung arranged over 20 pieces of Chinese porcelain. These were imitation antiques which he bought in Taiwan's pottery town of Yingko, but shortly after the restaurant opened they were all stolen by thieves who mistook them for genuine antiques.

Convincing imitations

Of all the Chinese restaurants Peter Sung has designed, a particular favorite of his is the Tse Yang Restaurant in the diplomatic quarter of Paris, close to the Champs Elysees. In that high-class area, frequented by the rich and famous, the impression he wanted to give patrons was that of the home of a wealthy family in southern China. In a design which draws on the spirit of the gardens of Suzhou, just inside the entrance the wall is pierced high up by a carved wooden ornamental window in a rhombus pattern, which lets light shine on the sumptuously painted panels of the high caisson ceiling, to impart a sense of intricate workmanship and opulence. To either side of the aisle in the front of the restaurant, there hang a pair of ten-foot-long, hand-carved bas-relief wooden wall panels, one depicting a hundred birds paying homage to the phoenix, and the other portraying a riverside scene in the Song-dynasty capital Kaifeng on Tomb Sweeping Day.

Inside the restaurant, the walls are all covered with silk brocade, in a phoenix pattern of the same design as a cheongsam worn by the Queen of England at the time. Every detail is apt to make customers gasp in admiration, and this restaurant brought Peter Sung business from many high-class customers, including a Syrian prince. However, the restaurant's swanky atmosphere also attracted the attention of a different kind of "clientele." On a large antique-style cabinet in the waiting area, Sung arranged over 20 pieces of Chinese porcelain. These were imitation antiques which he bought in Taiwan's pottery town of Yingko, but shortly after the restaurant opened they were all stolen by thieves who mistook them for genuine antiques.

European chinoiserie

Peter Sung says he got the inspiration for the silk wall hangings from the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europe was swept by a fashion for chinoiserie. This was a "Chinese" style created by Europeans on the basis of their imaginings about faraway China. The Brighton Pavilion, on the south coast of England, is an "oriental" style villa commissioned by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) and built at the end of the 18th century. Based on the drawings brought back by an artist who accompanied a diplomatic mission to China, the pavilion's designers filled the rustic wall paintings in the banqueting hall with Chinese gentlemen-in-waiting and emperors with strange faces that are neither oriental nor Western. From the ceiling hangs a one-ton crystal chandelier in the form of a gigantic dragon with its tongue lolling out. In other rooms, one finds such things as a porcelain pagoda, lotus-flower lamps, a nodding doll under a large red lampshade, and walls inlaid all over with blue-and-white porcelain. To a Chinese, all these things seem vaguely familiar, yet also bizarre and alien.

Today, as the world grows ever smaller, the Chinese style expressed overseas still has an element of the romance of a declining empire. But the appearance of today's Chinese palaces is no longer so phantasmagorical, and they are no longer reserved for the sole enjoyment of royalty and rich folk. You too can go out of your door, round the corner and into a sumptuously decorated Chinese restaurant, where, under the dim light of a palace lantern, amid wooden screens carved with birds and flowers, you can savor the refined flavors of a Chinese meal served on elegant blue-and-white porcelain tableware, and fulfil your own dream of China.

European chinoiserie

Peter Sung says he got the inspiration for the silk wall hangings from the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europe was swept by a fashion for chinoiserie. This was a "Chinese" style created by Europeans on the basis of their imaginings about faraway China. The Brighton Pavilion, on the south coast of England, is an "oriental" style villa commissioned by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) and built at the end of the 18th century. Based on the drawings brought back by an artist who accompanied a diplomatic mission to China, the pavilion's designers filled the rustic wall paintings in the banqueting hall with Chinese gentlemen-in-waiting and emperors with strange faces that are neither oriental nor Western. From the ceiling hangs a one-ton crystal chandelier in the form of a gigantic dragon with its tongue lolling out. In other rooms, one finds such things as a porcelain pagoda, lotus-flower lamps, a nodding doll under a large red lampshade, and walls inlaid all over with blue-and-white porcelain. To a Chinese, all these things seem vaguely familiar, yet also bizarre and alien.

Today, as the world grows ever smaller, the Chinese style expressed overseas still has an element of the romance of a declining empire. But the appearance of today's Chinese palaces is no longer so phantasmagorical, and they are no longer reserved for the sole enjoyment of royalty and rich folk. You too can go out of your door, round the corner and into a sumptuously decorated Chinese restaurant, where, under the dim light of a palace lantern, amid wooden screens carved with birds and flowers, you can savor the refined flavors of a Chinese meal served on elegant blue-and-white porcelain tableware, and fulfil your own dream of China.

皇帝の宴を再現する──「中国宮殿」社が装飾する海外レストラン

中華料理、フランス料理とイタリア料理が世界三大料理と言われる。また中国人の胃袋は、外国でも中華料理を口にしないと収まらないため、世界各国に散らばる華人の移民や台湾の観光客に伴って、中華レストランが各地に広がっていった。北京ダックや酢豚を口に運ぶお客たちは、外国の高級中華料理レストランによく見られる煌びやかに輝く華やかな宮殿スタイルのインテリアが、どこで作られているのか、好奇心をそそられないのだろうか。インテリアを設計しているのは、果して中国人なのだろうかと。

海外にある中華料理レストランの300店余りが、天井の装飾や木の彫刻を施した窓枠、床に敷いた絨緞から、門前の石の獅子に至るまで、すべてを台湾の中国宮殿装飾工程公司に依頼して作っていることを知っている人は少ないであろう。この会社が手作業で仕上げてコンテナで輸出しているのである。その裏には創設者宋さん親子独自の商売の目があり、人には分らない努力があるが、また中国文化に対する誇りと熱意も見て取れるではないか。


畳み重なる枡形の上に屋根の軒が反り返った線を見せ、朱塗の柱が支える天井には金襴の龍や鳳凰が描かれている宮殿様式の建築こそ、誰もがよく知っている中国式の建物であろう。国の内外を問わず、台北の円山飯店や故宮博物院、歴史博物館、中山楼、海外であれば中華街の入口に立つ鳥居のような牌楼や華やかな中華レストランがそうである。40年余りの歴史をもつ中華宮殿装飾工程公司は、一貫して中国式建築の装飾を手がけ、その顧客は国内から海外まで、中国人のいる場所ならどこにでも散らばっている。

1949年、山東大学経済学科を卒業した宋膺さんは、簡単な手荷物を持っただけで、山東大学の学生たちと共に台湾に移ってきた。そして国立台北大学の前身である行政専門学校で、教壇に経つことになった。書画に秀でていた上に、京劇にも造詣が深く、しかも胡弓も弾ける宋膺さんは、経済学を教えていたものの、その本棚には多くの伝統建築や中国式図案、絵画などの書物が並んでいた。

1960年代、国民党政府は中華文化復興の運動を呼びかけ、多くの公共施設が北方の華麗で重厚な中国宮殿様式で建てられるようになった。10月10日の国慶節や台湾の祖国復帰の記念日である光復節、憲法記念日などになると、官公庁の正門や主要道路には中国式の牌楼が建ち並ぶ。装飾絵画に興味を持っていた宋膺さんは、何人かの弟子を集めて牌楼建設のビジネスを始めた。当時の円山飯店の山沿い部分、中泰賓館、歴史博物館、さらには台南孔子廟などの装飾は、すべてその傑作である。

台湾の民間の寺や廟の装飾は、花鳥や民間伝説を主とした南方の絵画で飾られるが、宋膺さんの装飾は龍と鳳凰を主とし、これに如意、吉祥卍などの文様の装飾図案を加えた北方様式である。その中でも一番重要でまた難しい部分は、図案を繊細でかつ立体的に見せる「瀝粉」の技術である。

中学卒業後15歳で中国宮殿装飾工程公司に職人見習で入社し、30年余りの経験を持つベテラン職人雷永順さんによると、高い天井に描かれる宮殿様式の装飾は、45センチ四方の木の板を組み合せて作る。この一枚一枚の木の板は、まず石灰に豚の血を加えて下地を作り、隙間を埋める。下地ができてから、平らになった木の板に、無数の小さな穴をあけた設計図を被せ、上から赤い粉をかける。粉が小さな穴に入り込んで、木の板に素早く設計図の下書が写るのである。

この次が「瀝粉」である。煮溶かした膠に石灰を加えてペースト状のものを作り、これを自転車の内タイヤのゴムチューブに詰める。その先端には円錐状の漏斗をつける。必要な線の太さに応じて、漏斗には大小の穴が開けられている。こうしてウェディング・ケーキの装飾をするように、石灰のペーストを押出しながら、立体的な龍や鳳凰の図案を描き出していくのである。この作業が終ると、色づけとなる。図案の色が余りに派手にならないように、韻法の技法が用いられる。これは色と色との間にごく細い白い線を加えて、赤、黄色、青、緑、金などの強烈な原色が相互になじみ合うようにするもので、また退暈とも言う。

この小さな木の板に、これほど複雑で手の込んだ図案が描き込まれるが、それも職人の腕にかかっている。複雑と言うばかりではない。一、二メートルの長さに及ぶ装飾梁は、さらに職人の技術が要求される。「毛筆で字を書くのと同じように、細く長い石灰の線が流れるように、一気呵成に描かれなければいけません。職人の線がけの腕が試されます」と雷永順さんは言う。もう亡くなった大旦那の宋膺さんは、その当時、木の板の上にどれだけ速くまっすぐに線を引けるか、弟子としばしば競い合ったと言う。

1970年代、台湾の経済がテークオフし、多くのメーカーが国外の大規模な見本市に参加するようになった。その見本市に設けられた多くの展示の中で、いかに中国的特色を出すかと言うと、宮殿様式の装飾が一番だったのだそうである。それまでは装飾を描くことを主としていた中国宮殿装飾工程公司だったが、このころから木工、彫刻、瀝粉、ペンキ塗装の四部門を擁する会社となった。1970年代に中国宮殿装飾工程公司は世界規模の見本市に二回参加し、二回とも最優秀設計賞を中国館にもたらした。

宋膺さんには思いがけないことに、国際見本市の中国館の設計を受けたことから、仕事の重点を海外に移すことになった。見本市に参加し、中国館に強い印象を受けた会社には、外国ばかりではなく海外の華僑も多かったのである。特にレストランを経営するオーナーたちは、中国館の宮殿のような様式を見て、これこそ、自分たちが必要とする中国的雰囲気だと思った。

そこでドイツ、フランス、イギリス、オランダ、ルクセンブルグ、イタリア、スペイン、チェコ、ポーランド、そして中東のシリア、レバノン、アラブ首長国連邦、さらにはカナダ、アメリカからパナマ、コロンビア、そして横浜の中華街の半分を占める店まで、柱や梁に彫刻や絵画装飾が施され、竜や鳳凰の宮殿様式のインテリアであれば、ご主人に宋さんの会社に頼んだのかと聞いてみてまず間違いはない。「わが社ではほぼ27カ国、300余りの中華レストランのインテリアを受け持ちました」と話すのは、中国宮殿装飾工程公司の現任社長で、国内連絡業務を担当する宋家の長男の嫁、馮小華さんである。

外国にある中華レストランのお客と言うと、故郷の味を思う華僑もいるが主に現地の人々であろう。欧米の人々は食事の雰囲気を重んじるので、その地の中華レストランも特に中国風を強く打ち出している。屋根には朱の枡形に緑の瓦、そして入口には石の獅子が一対出迎え、ホールには龍を彫った皇帝の椅子と、大きな太平象のお着物が並べられる。お客は清朝の宮廷の衣装で記念撮影もできる。中に入ると銅製の宮殿風スタンドランプ、人の高さほどの金襴手の花瓶、木の透し彫りの間仕切りパネルが両側に並び迎えてくれる。突き当りにはお供え用の卓が設置され、福禄寿の三星の像が並べられている。足下の絨緞は五福捧寿のめでたい図案で、食卓は明朝様式の椅子に染付けの食器である。庭には奇石を並べた池があり、六角形の東屋がある中国風庭園となっている。目に入るもの、手にするものの全てが、宋家の中国宮殿装飾工程公司の製作で、台湾から遠くコンテナでここまで運ばれてきたものである。

台北の士林にある工場では、彫刻部門の職人が機械を使って、透かし彫りの装飾図案を切り出しているところである。別の職人さんは数十本の彫刻刀を並べて、生きているかのようなカササギを彫り出しているし、工作室の壁には数百種に上る吉祥図案の型がずらっとかけられている。木工区の職人さんは、明朝式の戸棚やセパレーションのパネルなど大型の家具を作る。木工と彫刻が終ると、塗装部門に回されて色がつけられる。長年繰り返し使われてきたために、作業台には厚く塗料がこびりついてしまった。「瀝粉」の職人さんたちは、絵画の図案が昔より簡単になって腕の振いどころが無くなり、また新しいインテリアの流行にあわせて、今ではその腕をガラス絵に発揮するようになった。

これらの材料は、すべて中国宮殿装飾工程公司の台湾のデザイナーたちが海外まで出向いて、現場で測量してきた大きさに合わせて製作される。東屋や屋根、アーチ門などは組立て式に作られコンテナの空間をとらないようにする。外国で電気水道、空調設備などの工事が終ったところで、台湾で製造されたこれらのパーツが分類して包装され、コンテナで送られる。海外の現場では積込み伝票により必要なものを取りだし、パーツ毎に施工の位置に置いていく。設計図を参照すれば、外国の職人さんでも短い工期で組立を完了できるようになっているのである。

しかし、台湾で設計製作されたものが海を渡ると、気候や環境の激変に適応できないことがよくある。「木で彫ったものは困ります。木は生きていますから」と、二代目の宋文尭さんは言う。切り出してきたばかりの木材は、湿気に合うと膨張し、乾くと収縮する。数年間陰干にしてからやっと形が定まり、家具に使えるようになる。一旦、乾燥が終った木材であっても、北の寒い国に送られて、長時間ヒーターの熱気に当ると、そのほとんどが裂目を生じてしまう。そこで、ほぞとほぞ穴で組み合せていく大型の彫刻の窓枠や屏風、アーチ門などの木製部品は、接着剤や釘で止めることはできず、接続した部分には十分の遊びを残しておかなければならない。宋文尭さんが今も覚えている経験は、台湾で数百年にわたって使われている陶器の瓦を、ニューヨークのチャイナタウンの牌樓に使った時のことである。それが大雪の寒さに耐えられず、表面の釉薬が次々に剥がれて落ちてしまった。宋さんたちはわざわざニューヨークまで、修復に出向いたと言う。

台湾の人件費高騰につれ、それまでの複雑な装飾を施した天井板、透かし彫りのパネル、或いは木の一枚板の家具などは、それぞれ新しい材料に取って代られていった。「簡素化しないと生き残れないのです」と、宋さんは話す。中華レストランで人の字形に渡された梁の天井を見かけるが、中央に高く組まれた朱塗りの梁は実は高圧紙の筒でできている。軽くて安く丈夫な紙の筒に、まずガーゼの布を被せ、これに赤い塗料を塗ったものである。傍によって叩いてみなければ、紙でできているとは分からないだろう。複雑な構成の桝形の上に載っているのは、グラスファイバーの屋根で、巨大な重量を支え分散させる必要はなく、手間のかかるほぞとほぞ穴の接合も使われなくなった。

高さ6メートル余りの六角形の東屋も、美しいカーブを描く屋根は型抜きした6枚のグラスファイバー板を組み合せたものである。屋根を支える柱も鉄金具を取り付けたグラスファイバー製だが、中国式に外側に優雅に反った手すりは木製である。蘇州の名園網師園を模した東屋には、伝統的な様式とハイテクの技術が併存している。

「私たちが作るのはすべてコピーですが、古い様式で新しく作り真に迫ることを目指しています」と宋文尭さんは話す。宋さんが高く評価する中華料理のシェフは、エビのチリソースを作る時にいつも新鮮なトマトのみじん切りを少し加える。それと同じ理屈なので「細部をどう処理し、どんな材料を使って、質感を出すかがポイントです」と言う。今日では様々な部品、部分について新しい素材が出てきているが、手に触れたり近くで目にする部分について、宋さんは手仕事で作り、職人の腕が見て取れる木製の部品を使うことにしている。

それに外国のレストランでは、以前のような満艦飾の中国宮殿様式のインテリアは好まれなくなり、シンプルで落ち着いた庭園様式が流行る傾向である。「名刺の中国宮殿を見て、うちは廟のような派手な装飾は要らないと言うオーナーもいます」と宋さんは言う。花菱や花鳥の屏風など、中国的な要素を少し加えれば、シンプルで優雅な空間が出現する。こんな設計なら2、3万米ドルで、心地よい中国風のレストランが出来上がるのである。派手なチャイナドレスのウェイトレス、龍や獅子が舞うような中国趣味は、すでにヨーロッパのお客の好みに合わなくなってきたようだ。

すでに3軒のレストランの内装を宋さんに任せたあるオーナーは、最近ニースに大規模なレストランを開いた。その改装も宋さんの手になるもので、元は倉庫のような売り場と駐車場だったところが、緑豊かな中国風庭園に生まれ変わったのである。石組みの山水から滝が流れ落ち、池にはあでやかな錦鯉が泳ぐ。曲がりくねった石橋を渡りながら、東屋からの眺めも楽しめる。この中国風庭園はすでに現地の観光スポットに取り上げられ、観光客の写真撮影に便利なように、現地の自治体では付近に無料駐車場設置を計画しているそうである。

華麗な宮殿様式から、シンプルで現代的なものまで、300軒余りの中華レストランの内装を扱ってきた宋文尭さんは、「本当によいレストランとは一種の思想を表現できなければなりません」と話す。どの料理にどの酒を合わせ、食後にはどんなデザートを出すのか、食器はどうするのか、どれ一つ取っても疎かにはできない。こういったシェフクラスのレストランには、それなりの設計理念が必要なのである。例えばと、宋さんは例を挙げる。かつてオランダで、錦鯉を飼っている広東人オーナーのレストランを設計したことがある。毎年コンテストに優勝している錦鯉のために、入り口に小さな木の橋を架けることにした。お客はこの橋を渡る時に、錦鯉の泳ぐ姿を楽しむことができる。レストランではパーティションの飾りガラスの模様はすべて錦鯉、中央には骨董クラスの大きな戸棚を置き、そこにコンテストの優勝カップを並べた。オーナーの趣味と個性を、こうして表現したのである。

1970年代初頭、アメリカのニクソン大統領が中国を訪問し、世界中に中国ブームが巻き起こり、これにつれて世界各地の中華レストランも賑いを見せた。ここ数年は、中国大陸の市場開放もあって、中国は一つの流行になってきて、中華レストランを訪れる若い人たちも少なくない。そこで若い人の好みに合わせようと、宋文尭さんはこれまでにもまして内装設計において複雑な宮殿様式を簡素化している。すっきりと明るい白い壁に赤いチェックのテーブルクロス、漢字をデザインした間仕切りパネル、黒いスチールパイプの明朝式椅子を組み合せ、モダンな若向きの中国風を演出する。

自分が設計した内装の中でも、パリのシャンゼリゼ近く、大使館が集まる地域にある「正陽大酒樓」が一番気に入っている。パリでも最高にエレガントな一帯で、中国南方の上流階級の雰囲気を外国人に味わってもらおうと、蘇州式の庭園のエッセンスを取り入れた。一歩足を踏み入れると、透かし彫りを施した飾り窓から光りが洩れる。高い天井の頂点には、繊細で華麗に彩られた装飾天井が、独特の華やかさを醸し出す。客席に入る前の廊下には、両側に3メートル近い長さの木彫の装飾パネルが飾られている。すべて手彫りのパネルの一つは百鳥朝鳳図、もう一つは清明上河図である。

室内の壁面は、すべて模様入りの緞子で覆われている。その文様の図案は、その昔ビクトリア女王に献上した中国服の生地と同じである。細部にわたるまで華麗に繊細にデザインされたこのレストランは、お客の賛嘆のため息を誘うと共に、宋さんにはアラブの王族との取引ももたらした。優雅なレストランの内装が上流社会の人々を引き付けたが、さらに意外なことに泥棒の注意も引いたと言う。入り口ホールの大きな骨董の棚には、外国人が好む20点余りの陶磁器が置かれていた。これは宋文尭さんが台湾で作らせたレプリカなのだが、それとは知らない泥棒は、本物の骨董品と思い込んだらしく、開店まもなくすべて盗まれてしまったそうである。

緞子を壁紙に使うのは、イギリスのブライトン宮殿を見て思いついたと言う。17、18世紀のヨーロッパには中国趣味が流行し、遥かな中国をヨーロッパ人は憧れを込めて想像した。イギリス南部の海岸地帯にあるブライトン宮殿は、18世紀末にイギリス国王ジョージ四世が建てた離宮である。

離宮のインテリアは、イギリスの中国使節団に随行した画家のスケッチを元にして作られ、バンケット・ホールの壁に貼られた中国の風俗画は、西とも東ともつかない奇妙な顔の皇帝や召し使いが描かれ、天井からは1トンの重さの龍のシャンデリアが下がっている。別の部屋でも、蓮の花のランプや赤い灯籠の下の中国人のお人形、壁一杯に飾られた染め付けの皿など、中国人にとってどこかで見たような、しかし奇妙で不思議な雰囲気である。

今日、世界の距離は縮まっている。海外における中国ブームは「ラスト・エンペラー」のロマンを残してはいるものの、以前のようなエキゾチックな奇想に満ちたものではなくなり、華麗な中国風の宮殿も王侯貴族だけの夢ではなくなった。華やかなでエレガントな中華レストランのおぼろなランタンの下で、花鳥の屏風の陰に染付けの皿を前にして、中華の美味を楽しみながら、中国の夢を実現できるのである。

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