A sweet art — sugar painting

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These impressionist-style paintings fall into two main categories: plane painting and solid painting. It is comparatively easier to do the former. When producing the latter, the painter needs more knowledge and techniques of sugar painting. For example, to produce a flower basket, he/she has to do a round sugar pancake first, and then make a smaller sugar circle on the pancake. Due to the difference of the two parts in temperature, it is easy to pull up the smaller and resilient sugar circle with some tool and form a solid basket. Later on, the artist adds a lifting beam and flowers to the basket, making a vivid flower basket.

According to some academic studies, sugar painting originated from the Ming Dynasty when sugar animals and figures were made in molds as part of a sacrifice in religious rituals. In the Qing Dynasty, sugar painting gained more popularity. The production techniques were upgraded and the patterns became more various, most of which were auspicious such as fish, loong and monkey. Afterward, the folk artists in Sichuan developed this art by incorporating techniques of Chinese shadow puppet and Chinese paper cutting. The molds were also replaced with a small bronze spoon. As time passed by, the contemporary form of sugar painting has gradually evolved.

Although the number of sugar painters has decreased, due to its unique charm, a certain number of artists are making sustained efforts to preserve it by offering classes, holding relevant activities such as sugar painting contests and applying for the National Non-material Cultural Heritage.

Nowadays, this art is garnering support again, from both the general public and the government. It has already been listed as Provincial Non-Material Culture Heritage by the Sichuan Government. Moreover, the sugar painting artists have gained increasing recognition.

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