Text by At Youd and Zhao Yu Phofogrophs by Ai Youd
Xunxian clay figurines include more than 100 varieties in three categories: human, birds, and other animals. Most human pieces are designed after characters from classic novels, stories and folk operas. Animal pieces frequently depict tigers, elephants, lioris, swallows, turtledoves, and peacocks. Against black, white, and brown backgrounds, pigments of red, green, blue, yellow and other bright colors are mixed with egg yolk to make them shinier. In 2006, the clay art was added to China´s intan gible cultural heritage list. Simple designs mixing bright colors give figurines a strong pastoral fiavor.
Xunxian clay figurines are mainly produced by small family-based workshops. During the farming offseason, the whole family - men and women, young and old gather to make them. Time passes quickly with their chatting and laughter. Preparing mud or designing——every person can find work to do. Completed figurines need to dry before they can be fired in family kilns. Consequently ,vivid figurimes can be seen on windowsills, walls, and cooking benches in every household.
Four primary production methods account for Xuxian clay figurines. The first employs moulds, often used to make swallows and little girls. The second, hand-knead-ing, is used for horses and monkeys. The third combines mould-making and hand-kneading for figures such as horse riders. Finally, craftsmen sometimes add wire and springs to make moVable lions and horses. The mud and tools are simple and easy to find locally. Water is added to the mud before it is beaten with a wooden stick until becoming soft like dough. Craftsmen often use bamboo sticks as their tools, with one end dull and wide and the other sharp. The stick is used to craft the nose, mouth, eyes, and patterns on the figurines as well as the holes that create sounds when blown.
The most exciting event for Xunxian locals occurs when visitors from nearby counties come to celebrate Spring Festival Grand temple fairs lasting longer than two weeks are organized by the county. Large crowds of tourists also present busmess opportunities. Some locals joke that during the last month of the Chinese lunar year, all of Xunxian is doing one thing: preparing temple fairs!