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Artist Uses Snake as Calligraphy Brush
Xiang Jincheng can wind a 4-kilogram 2-meter-long snake around his neck and use it as a brush to write Chinese characters. Xiang went to Liuzhou city recently to be interviewed. This “celebrated personality” is famous for his unique skills and character.

Music and Snake Calligraphy Astonishes Audiences

Master Xiang is famous for finger calligraphy, and has since developed other forms of inscription including music calligraphy and snake calligraphy. Snake calligraphy uses a king snake as brush to paint or write. He is referred to in the field of calligraphy art as celebrated personality and his works are competed for by collectors.

During his performance it was clear that his calligraphy measures up to his fame. First Xiang used his thumb to create some works of art. Next he brought out an ugly king snake; the audience was astonished. He adroitly wound the snake around his neck and slightly moistened the creatures head with ink, before using the huge reptile to write a Chinese character long (dragon). He received thunderous applause. Finally, he brought out a traditional Chinese musical instrument, the hulusheng (a woodwind instrument in the shape of gourd), and began to blow it. When the audience was almost inebriated with his music, Xiang wrote four Chinese characters, yishengpingan (happy in one’s whole life), without missing a note. Applauses rang out yet again.

Calligraphy Master Saves Snake

Xiang dons a typical artist’s appearance with his curly hair and long black gown. Xiang, 47-years-old, is a member of the Miao ethnic group. When he was young, his family was too poor to buy him paint brushes, so from the age of seven he has practiced calligraphy using his thumb.

Xiang said that he’s the inventor of snake calligraphy in China. He wanted to show people that as fierce as snake may be, it is still capable of dancing in harmony with humans in a very special way. He also wanted to call on the public to protect animals; “snakes have a value and we shouldn’t catch and kill them.”

Xiang then relayed a story about his first encounter with his snake. In 1995 he went to a hill in Hunan Province to do some paintings. He came across a peasant who was trying to kill a snake. Xiang convinced the man to exchange the snake for some of his valuables. At that time, the snake weighed only half a kilogram and was just 1-meter-long. After having cared for the snake for four years one day he noticed that its head was shaped like a thumb. From that point on he began to train the snake to cooperate with him to write. Within a year he could write wonderful calligraphy using his snake.

Xiang said at first the snake was fierce and always tried to strangle or bite him. Gradually he learnt how to cooperate with the snake. Now he can write easily no matter how big or small the characters are, either by using the reptile’s head or tail. He has now looked after the snake for eight years, and the snake has become the apple of his eye. He employs a full time worker to look after it and feeds it superior quality beef every day.

Zealous Good Samaritan

Xiang is also a good Samaritan. He has taken part in several charity sales organized by the Charity Federation. In 2002 he donated 300,000 yuan (about US$36,300) to help laid-off workers to study. Xiang said he has adopted two orphans -- one of primary school age and the other is in high school. Xiang said he was poor when he was young, and now that he has succeeded he wants to offer something back to his society.

(China.org.cn by Chen Lin December 16, 2002)

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