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Suning sugar sculpture blowing craftsmanship

Vivid sugar figures made by artists from Xibozhuang village of Cangzhou city through the region’s traditional sugar sculpture blowing technique.[Photo/Hebei.com.cn]
Xibozhuang Village, known as “sugar sculpture village”, is the cradle of a handicraft art named Suning sugar sculpture blowing.
Located in Suning county, Cangzhou city, the village has a history of more than 100 years of sugar sculpture blowing, dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Sugar sculpture blowing is a traditional folkart where artists blow and sculpt hot sugar to create three-dimensional figures. The finished figures are not only look good, but also have a good taste, making them popular among children. 
The main raw material for Suning sugar sculpture blowing is malt sugar. The malt sugar used in sculpture blowing has to be heated to high temperatures, and it can only be used after several processing procedures, including the sorting and cooking of the malt sugar followed by the firing and melting of it. 
Almost every artist from Xibozhuang Village has his or her own unique recipe and method of processing the malt sugar.

An artist from Xibozhuang Village colors a dragon-shaped sugar sculpture. [Photo/Hebei.com.cn]
“Blowing” can be divided into two methods—one uses molds; the other does not, and involves sugar figures taking shape through a combination of blowing air into the processed malt sugar and the artist’s flexible hand skills. Some blowing sugar figures will also be colored according to needs.
Sugar sculpture is carefully and exquisitely made. It may look simple but is the result of decades of practice and skills, combined with the artists’ painstaking efforts. Artists need to be quick and accurate. 
Based on traditional sugar sculpture blowing techniques, artists from Xibozhuang Village have incorporated other sugar sculpture skills, such as a technique where sugar figure parts are pinched by hand, and then adhered by syrup. 
Themes of Suning sugar sculpture are of a wide variety, including animals, plants, people, mythic characters and inspirations from daily life.
Suning sugar sculpture blowing has been recognized as a city-level intangible cultural heritage of Cangzhou city in Hebei province.
To preserve and promote this traditional craftsmanship, Xibozhuang Village established a sugar figure art troupe in 2011, which consists of over 50 artists recognized as the inheritors of the technique.
The village has also built a museum to display delicate sugar sculpture blowing works and techniques to tourists. 

An artist from Xibozhuang Village colors a bird-shaped sugar sculpture. [Photo/Hebei.com.cn]
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