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Beijing has an abundance of local products, with the most popular being the pretty arts and crafts. The cloisonne, ivory carvings, carved lacquer ware and jade articles are the four most noted handicrafts of Beijing. Other specialties like inside painting snuff bottle, palace lanterns, dough figurines, silk flowers, facial masks and Jinghu (or 'Beijing Erhu', used in the Beijing Opera) also enjoy high favor among tourists.
Cloisonne (Jǐngtài Lán) is a variation of enamel work with copper as the inside frame. The Jingtai Reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) saw a remarkable thriving period of cloisonne making, the glaze of which was primarily blue. It thus obtained the name 'Jingtai Lan', with the word 'Lan' meaning blue. The cloisonne products range from little earrings to huge ornaments, which are elegantly shaped with beautiful patterns and bright glittering colors.
Ancient ivory carving is a combination of the traditional carving techniques which include round carving, relief carving and hollow relief. It has a history of more than 7,000 years and is featured by a vivid description of persons, flowers or a certain scene.
Carved Lacquer Ware
The Beijing carved lacquer ware came into existence during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Brass, wood or cloth is used as a framework which is to be lacquered many times. In the end, a carving procedure is begun on the layers. A common lacquer ware has at least seventy layers of lacquer whereas a top-end item may have over 500 layers.
Beijing, the political and economical center of China, is also the centre for all kinds of jade. Jade objects in Beijing vary in size: large ones like jade vases, tea sets and figurines of people and animals, and the small ones like finger rings, necklaces and seals. The Flower Market area of Chongwen District sells a great influx of jade wares.
Inside Painting Snuff Bottle
Nowadays, the value of these snuff-bottles doesn't lie in its practical use, but rather in its intricate art. These flat bottles are made from transparent materials such as glass, jade, crystal, agate, or emerald, so the exquisite pictures can be seen clearly. This unbelievably beautiful artwork is drawn patiently and delicately by using a tiny bamboo paintbrush inside the container.
As the name suggests, the palace lanterns were once used by the imperial courts. The framework of the lanterns is made of rare wood like rosewood and padauk, while painted glass and silk pieces serve as decoration. On festivals, lanterns such as these will add to the joyful atmosphere; and they are also perfect for decorating rooms.
Crafting dough figurine is a form of folk handicrafts that requires a high degree of skill. Different colored dough is used to create the different parts of the lifelike figurine. Another advantage of these small figurines is that they are easily carried and don't mildew, crack or change in shape or color. Therefore, it is a good tourist souvenir and an ideal present for friends.
Silk flowers emerged in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and have now developed into more than 2,000 kinds such as floral baskets and a miniascape. This realistic handicraft accurately portrays the original article and displays fine workmanship.
Facial Masks & Jinghu
Jinghu (jīng hú) is a two-stringed Chinese musical instrument which is used in the performance of Beijing Opera. For those keen on the Beijing Opera, facial masks and Jinghu are great treasures. They can be a welcome addition to room decoration.
Beijing Kites have unique local styles in craftsmanship, modeling, designs and colors. In spring, the flying kites in the sky present a beautiful scene.