The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) placed a very high value on the "Hundred Crafts". Artisans of superb workmanship were accorded a respectful title "Maestro Artisan (也可兀闌)". The new institution of jianghu (匠戶, Artisan Household) registry allowed the carving skills passing from the father to the son for generations, until well into Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Woodcarving as a craft, however, still belonged under other professions such as architecture, furniture, and religious statues making. After mid-Ming, the carving arts became an independent craft category in its own right. However, many carving artists though famous for one single craft never confined themselves to that one single medium during their lifetime. For example, renowned bamboo carvers Zhu Ying (朱纓) and Pu Cheng (濮澄) both carved on wood as well. Rhinoceros horn expert Bao Tiancheng (鮑天成) also did his art on ivory and red sandalwood. Into the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), there was a woodworking workshop, even one specifically called Canton woodworking workshop, installed under the Workshops of the Imperial Household Department (內廷作坊). The talented carvers nevertheless devoted most of their time to ivory carving, with wood carving only as a side job. It was the same outside the palace; no artisans could afford carving wood alone as an art or craft. It had to be part of furniture making or wood-framed structure building, or at the best carried out in rendering religious statues.
Wood of fine grain is the prerequisite for successful fine carving. After polishing, it has to be fine to the touch, i.e. smooth and soft. The most ideal material is boxwood (黃楊木). In addition, Qienan (伽楠) incense wood (aloeswood, 沉香木) and sandalwood (檀香木) are known for their nice aroma, whereas ebony's (烏木) appeal is in its hues and sheen. Gnarled wood (癭木) gets its name from its many knots, lumps, and snarls. Woodcarving artisans took advantage of this interesting natural form and subtly fashioned it into original artwork, with minimum and "invisible" knife work.