Xiaoshan dough modeling master crafts 'Chinese dragon'
Gan works on his Chinese Dragon, a celebration of the upcoming Year of the Dragon. [Photo/WeChat account: XSFM1079]
Gan Haishui, an inheritor of the Xiaoshan intangible cultural heritage of dough modeling, and his artworks were recently featured on China Central Television's "Xinwen Lianbo" (News Broadcast).
The folk-art form has a history of over 2,000 years. Using materials like flour and glutinous rice flour, mixed with pigments, artists use simple tools and manual techniques to create various figures such as humans, flowers, insects, and fish, which can be preserved for a long period of time.
Entering Gan's workshop, a vibrant Chinese Dragon with open jaws and colorful scales becomes immediately visible. The piece is being made to welcome the upcoming Year of the Dragon and will be completed after the scales are attached and painted.
Recalling 2002, Gan, who was a chef at the time, became enamored with the craft after seeing someone carve works out of pumpkins and carrots. He then started learning fruit and vegetable carving while experimenting with dough modeling in his spare time.
Although the craft requires immense patience, Gan finds joy in it. Most of his leisure time is spent on dough modeling, and over the past two decades, his skills have steadily improved.
The Chinese Dragon. [Photo/WeChat account: XSFM1079]
In 2015, dough modeling was included in the sixth group of Xiaoshan district intangible cultural heritage items. Over the years, Gan has transitioned from being a chef to a fruit and vegetable carving artist and then to a professional dough modeling artist. In 2019, he was honored with the title of Chief Technician in Xiaoshan, and in 2020, he became a representative inheritor of the technique.
In the past two years, Gan has focused on creating works with historical and cultural themes, including prominent local figures like He Zhizhang. He has also as taught intangible cultural heritage techniques to students.
Gan plans to create more works this year inspired by the Year of the Dragon, incorporating Chinese elements and local characteristics.
Some of Gan's works. [Photo/WeChat account: XSFM1079]