These fragile, plump figures have a distinct brownish-yellow colour, usually with yellow or green pigment added. They are mainly purchased for ornamental purposes and not for consumption, due to sanitary concerns. Popular figures include animals such as dragons, roosters and pigs, and such objects machetes and spears.
Similar to the trade of producing sugar paintings, this art form has been practiced in public places for hundreds of years, and can still be seen today. Traditionally, artists set up their point of production and sale in areas such as markets, and outside schools, as the figures appeal to children. These days, this art form is practiced in tourist areas.
Prices can range from one or two, to tens of RMB, depending on the piece. However, during difficult economic times, artists would exchange figures for metal scraps, broken shoes, old clothing, and notably, toothpaste. Children would often scavange for these items in order to purchase a figure.
Using a small charcol stove, sugar is heated in a metal vessel. When at the correct temperature, a ball is extracted. It is then kneaded in the artist's hands to product consistency and pliability. A thin straw is then inserted into the ball, and the artist begins to blow air into it, in order to slowly inflate it. Simultaneously, the artist pinches and pulls parts of the ball, by hand, or sometimes with tools such as tweezers, to produce limbs, and various shapes. Before the figure has completely cooled, colours, typically red or green, are added to the surface, and a wooden stick is inserted into the underside. The straw is then extracted, and the figure put on display for sale.
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