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Clay Sculpture

Clay Sculpture

Located in the west of Guanzhong Plain, Fengxiang (county in Shaanxi Province) is famous for the folk colored clay sculpture which is also called as “clay product” by local people. Many colored clay sculptures of pottery figurines in period in the Spring and Autumn (770-476 BC) and Warring States (475-221 BC) periods, Han Dynasty ( 206 BC - AD 220) and Tang Dynasty (618 –07) are excavated there, indicating the long history of Fengxiang clay sculpture. In recent years, the major production sites are distributed throughout Liuying Village and surrounding areas. Tradition has it that six battalions of armies stationed here in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the soldiers left and become local residents later. Some of them return to their former career in the pottery industry, creating sculptures with local clay and sold them in temple fairs. The native people bought the clay sculptures and placed at home to pray for happiness. Thus, the Liuying Village clay sculpture becomes well-known and has a reputation throughout China.

Generally, there are three categories. The first is clay playthings, which are primarily clay statues of animals especially the twelve animals symbolic of the Terrestrial Branches. The second is called "guapian" in Chinese, refers to type of facial makeup in operas, tiger face and ox head which represents luck. The last category are human portraits in folklore and history stories. More than 170 colors and patterns are available in Fengxiang Clay Sculpture, covering crouching tiger as large as half a person high, tiger face and small as rabbit and lion. In the manufacture, smolmitza, whitener and hide glue are adopted with mold are used for shaping. Unique in shape, beautiful in ornament, gorgeous in color and cute in pattern, it develops a school of its own in the folk arts. Before the 1960s, there were almost 300 families in the industry, but now only several artists create and produce clay sculpture in their spare time.

This traditional handicraft attracts many experts' eyes due to its strong culture in rural life, high research value of folk culture, art and esthetics. However, under the impact of business environment, the clay sculptures now are produced according to market sales, catering to the market demands. Consequently, many traditional products are in danger of extinction.