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Traveling Trunk

Clay Figurine

Transforming clay into figurines is one of the oldest physical art forms of China. Some figurines have been excavated that date as far back as 7,000 years ago. Clay figurines became very popular during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD) (15) and were widely produced during that time period. Clay figurines are still prized in China today as folk art.

To make a clay figurine, craftsmen select clay that is not too sticky but not too hard, mix it with water, and hammer it until it is flexible enough to be molded. At this point, the clay can be formed into different shapes, painted, and left to dry in the shade. Unlike porcelain, clay figurines are not baked and tend to be more delicate. Once dry, a varnish can be added to protect the color.

Like other handcrafted items, clay figurines are widely produced and sold during holidays or festivals. Merchants prepare for this busy season and display their works in stores and at local fairs. They usually portray traditional dress or characters from Chinese mythology and history (16).