Chongqing- In a small store in Longxing Ancient Town of Yubei District in Chongqing, Li Mei sat on a stool with a pot of boiling sugar beside her. She skillfully scooped up a spoonful of sugar from the pot and moved it in a flowing manner. When the spoon was up again, a vivid dragon appeared in front of our eyes.
Sugar painting is a form of traditional Chinese folk art that uses hot liquid sugar to create paintings on a marble surface. After cooling, the painting will be glued to a bamboo stick and removed with a spatula. In this way, three-dimensional objects can be created by laying down solidified sugar.
Although Li Mei is only in her thirties, she has been working as a sugar painter for 19 years. Her family has lived in Longxing Ancient Town in Chongqing for generations and has been making sugar paintings since her senior grandfather. The craft has been passed down for six generations by now. In 2017, Li’s sugar painting was included in the sixth batch of the intangible cultural heritage lists of Yubei District.
After graduating from junior high school, Li Mei tried various kinds of jobs, but finally, she chose to return to sugar painting. It is inseparable from the family inheritance, as well as her love of painting.
Her stall is always crowded with children, and while she brings joy to them, her works are influenced by them in turn. Most of the traditional sugar painting patterns are flowers, birds, fishes, and insects. However, inspired by some kids, Li Mei has added a lot of new patterns to the sugar paintings, such as pandas, swans, cartoon character Totoro, and even some features in online games. “I feel happy when I’m with kids, as they are innocent and pure. I always have a great time talking and playing with them. Because in doing so, I’m also like a kid that hasn’t grown up.” she said with a laugh.
At present, Li Mei no longer relies on sugar painting to earn a living. But on weekends, she is still willing to go out and make sugar paintings at her stall. Sugar is no longer a rare luxury in modern society, but these crystal-clear sugar paintings can still convey sweetness and happiness to others. She also hopes that people who eat the sugar she makes will have peace and joy.
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