Sheng Tang Xuan is a small shop well known for the variety of folk artworks it carries.
In the tiny 30 sq.m floor space, about ten categories of typical folk handicrafts are on display.
Hair monkeys - You can see large scale hair monkey models here. A wedding ceremony attended by hundred of monkeys is by itself worth the trip to the shop. It reflects the entire process of Chinese wedding.
Flannelette (soft cotton) figurine - Named in Chinese ¡°Rong Bu Tang¡±. A famous brand since the Qing dynasty. It is this shop¡¯s golden brand.
Paper¨Ccuts ¨C All the paper-cuts here are made by famous artist Sun Er Lin. The carving is very delicate. These products are high class paper-cuts.
Rubber models ¨C models of
Prices range from RMB 10 to RMB 3000.
What I appreciated:
High quality folk artwork.
What customer appreciate:
Diversity. vivid figurines.
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.
As I was strolling along a quiet Hutong street, a shop drew my attention. At the entrance gate, a young man sitting at a table was making something interesting. I recognized a hair monkey, one of traditional Beijing folk artworks.
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.
All the monkeys were very lively.
A Quest for Collecting
I could not but admire the artisan, Mr.Lin. Mr.Lin¡¯s father was himself an artisan who had dedicated his life to folk art. So his son was exposed to all kinds of folk artwork from his childhood. Clever with his hands, he could do all sorts of handicraft.
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
The shop gathers over twenty categories of typical folk handicrafts.
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?!
Other Folk Artworks
Other precious works come from Mr.Lin¡¯s friends, also folk artisans themselves. For instance, small embroidery shoes (three inch long shoes, with beautiful embroidery patterns, the kind of which were once worn by women); dough figurines, clay figurines (a speciality of the Shanxi province); lacquered painting on a cucurbit; paintings on eggs and on ceramic tiles; leather silhouettes, etc.
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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