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  • Sunday, January 07, 2007

    Sugar Painting in Chengdu

    Hongfei Zhang, in Chengdu, Sichuan, China, gives a wonderful description of Chengdu Sugar Painting. It describes exactly what I've seen on the streets and in the parks. These artisans produce some amazing results -- like the bicycle shown above. Hongfei Zhang writes (page 89): "Sugar Painting in Chengdu was most popular in the years of Tongzhi in Qing Dynasty. At that time, many people made a living by sugar painting, shouldering a carrying pole and setting up stalls in crowded streets, in front of theatres and busy public places. There used to be an old handicraftsman with many prentices, who led prentices to place the stall in Erxian Temple of the Green Goat Palace [Qingyang Temple] for the temple fair. Many sugar painters gathered and competed against each other, with a lot of people surrounding to watch.

    On the right of the sugar paining stall is a small wooden table, on which is placed a smooth marble slab. Beside the table is a small stove used to boil thick syrup which is made and sold. Using a small spoon to scoop the syrup which looks like silk and thread, the handicraftsman concentrates his strength on the wrist and takes the spoon as a brush pen, rising and pausing strokes, up and down, left and right. Soon a vivid sugar painting is finished, which in then stuck to a bamboo slice and scooped up with a small shovel, shining in the sunlight, sparkling and crystal-clear, nice and lovely in look.

    On the left of the stall is placed a turntable, on which are drawn many grids marked with cock, dragon, flower, plant, human figure and so on. The indicative hand is also made of bamboo sheet. Run it slightly and you will get whatever it points at. On the stall, there is also a bundle tied to a bamboo stick and made of straw, on which are plugged comleted sugar paintings as a signboard to solicit customers.

    "Sugar painting is especially popular among kids. They cry for it yet are reluctant to eat it, licking it gently and then looking at it for a long time. Some young boys and girls also want to try their luck and shout and jump for joy if they get a dragon. Actually, they just do it for a joyful mood instead of really wanting something."
    Note: Chengdu Sichuan China [The Printing House of UESTC, 2006] was written in Chinese by Zhang Hongfei, a Chengdu-based management consultant, translated into English by several translators, and proofread and de-Chinglified by expatriate writer Warren Rodwell who teaches postgraduates at The University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. The book is sold at several outlets in Chengdu. For specific information email Warren Rodwell at woccamedia@gmail.com for current sale locations.


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