Dough shaping can be taken as a carved artistic creation in Beijing. This folk art is made of purified wheat flour, glutinous rice powder mixed with bee-honey and glycerin. Skillful artists make these materials into some lively figures, such as Monkey King, Liu Bei. The small size of this work makes it an ideal gift for friends or memorabilia for the trip to Beijing.
Generally, dough figures are made on streets and sold on the spot. The craftsman depends on this craft to make a living. There is no specific institution that teaches the skills for making dough figures. The craft is handed down by oral teaching and practice. In general, the craft is passed down from the ancestors of a family. There are a lot of schools of dough figures making. They differ from one another in the formula and techniques of dough kneading. Even within the same school, the formula and techniques of dough kneading can differ with the change of seasons and works.
Although the exactly original time of dough sculptures is hard to be finalized. According to some local artists, dough shaping was popular as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). During that time, dough sculptures were buried with the dead. During the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279), dough sculptures in the shapes of people, flowers and birds were used as sacrifices and could be eaten. Until the end of the Qing Dynasty, they were kept in glass boxes and functioned as artworks on some occasions.
Technique for doing dough sculptures
The main material for dough sculpture is flour. This local product asks some careful techniques during the making process.
In order to make the dough smooth and easy to shape while also allowing it to last for years without spoiling, the dough itself is created from a mixture of wheat flour, honey, lard, powdered sugar and other ingredients.
In order to color the right colors, special care has to be taken in the preparation of the dough. Dough has a special luster that adds beauty to the finished product.
In order to
ensure a vivid dough sculpture, many different instruments are used for creating detail in the dough, ranging from fingers to toothpicks to sharp pointed metal objects.