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Folk artwork is an important part of Chinese culture. Twenty to thirty years ago, it was a time of great prosperity for folk art. Folk artisans once carried their loads to some busy commercial streets, made artworks on the spot and peddled them. But now, since this career can only make a little money, the number of folk artisans are becoming less and less. Folk artisans are threatened to become an endangered species. I found a shop in Beijing, however, which collects all kinds of folk artworks. The owner himself is a folk artisan. He has dedicated himself to carrying forward Chinese art, and imparts his knowledge freely to his patrons. I saw here the promise of a revival for our folk art.
Hair monkeys are monkey figurines. They are usually as big as a thumb. Their heads and four limbs are made of cicada shell, and their bodies of flower buds.
Hair monkeys have abundant brows and motion. Their postures mimicry human beings¡¯ behaviours. Every work has a particular theme, and reflects a particular custom. For instance, two monkeys kneeled and kowtowed to each other. One of them wears a red coif. This shows the Chinese wedding ceremony. I noted another group of three monkeys. One big monkey wes picking a bunch of firecrackers. Another big monkey was lighting it. The last small monkey was crouching far away, covering his ears with his hands. This is representation of how Chinese customarily celebrate the New Year.
He once toiled as a senior worker in a handicraft factory. When the factory want bankrupt, Mr. Lin opened his own special shop with the hope of collecting here the entire spectrum of folk artwork.
Mr. Lin knows too well the life of folk artisans. They are very talented in their art, but their margins are so slim, they don¡¯t have money to operate a shop to sell their products. The life of a pure folk artisan is a very hard one.
Do It Yourself
Mr. Lin makes some himself: hair monkeys; bean paintings (using beans of different sizes to create various kinds of animal and human beings. Every painting tells an interesting story); opera facial make-ups; thin silk figurines (Chinese ancient belle: using wire as a framework, thin silk fabric for clothes, and silk for hair. Every part of her body can be freely reshaped).
If you wanted to make your own work, Mr. Lin would be very happy to impart his knowledge on you. Wouldn¡¯t such DIY works make great gifts?!
Nearly all the most typical folk artworks of Northern China can be found here.
This shop is a treasure. Beijing¡¯s folk customs are represented in the vivid artworks. This makes for a strong culture atmosphere, and lively art.
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