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Folk art lights up the Beijing Olympics
16:00, August 04, 2008

On August 2, on the second floor of building A in the 2008 International Media Center, 10 Chinese folk artists brought their handicrafts to an exhibition hall. Their unique Chinese folk art show attracted many Chinese and foreign reporters alike.

One of the folk artists, Sun Lingmin, white-haired with age, undoubtedly received the most attention from foreign reporters. His kites, made in all different sizes, were displayed on the 34 square meter stage. Sun Lingmin patiently explained that "best wishes and blessings" are a longstanding Chinese tradition, and kite designs are themed on folk sayings, folk tales, and historical quotes. Through metaphors, double meanings, symbolism, and onomatopoeia, they express people's wish for a good life.

Sun Lingmin explained the kites as he gave demonstrations. "The process of making kites is very complicated. It includes cutting and binding bamboo, applying adhesive, putting on a protective coat, dyeing it, and more. Chinese culture is so broad and deep that it is hard for one to absorb it all." A foreign journalist who was taking a photo gave a sigh.

An energetic and outgoing woman, Liu Ren was surrounded by reporters as she displayed her paper cuttings. Liu Yang, a volunteer from Capital Normal University, became Liu Ren's new "disciple" that day. "How is it learning with a master?" a reporter asked. Liu Yang replied in embarrassment, "It looks easy, but it's really hard to do! The only thing I can make is an apple."

Wearing a pink Chinese style top, Liu Ren warmly invited every reporter looking at her paper cuttings to visit her paper-cut museum in a hutong near Xinwenhua Jie at Xidan. "This is Beijing's first privately run paper-cut museum," she said proudly. In the past 9 years, this unique museum has already received visitors from all over China and more than 30 countries and regions. It has become a window displaying the Chinese folk art of paper cutting. Liu Ren has already tried to use paper-cuts to depict athletic competitions at the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing. She hopes that through the Olympics, more people from other countries will come to appreciate Chinese folk art.

Yu Guangjun uses magnolias, cicada shells, and other materials to create monkeys, earning him round after round of applause from his audience. He explained the history of his craft: "These monkeys were made by a clerk working in an herbal medicine shop in Beijing, but he didn't intend them to be anything special. When the shopkeeper saw, he thought the clerk's creations were very intriguing, and moreover they combined four types of Chinese medicine, so he sold them as products. Thus, these monkeys became a type of folk art tradition." They were popular toys in the history of old Beijing, but they almost disappeared for a considerable period of time. "We are explaining this craft here so that it will not be buried under modern day toys that flash and make sounds," Yu Guangjun said.

One of Yu's creations called "It's the New Year!" drew much attention. In it, ten monkeys are carrying water and firewood or cleaning the house, preparing to celebrate the New Year.

"How long does it take to make one of these?" a journalist from Turkey asked in amazement.

"One month," Yu Guangjun replied.

By People's Daily Online

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