Fruit Made Fabulous: Peach Stone Sculptures by Tian Hongbo


Peach pit sculptures by Tian Hongbo

Tian Hongbo
Tian Hongbo grew up from an art loving child into an art professional who excels in miniature sculptures, clay sculptures, fine brushwork painting and decorative painting. With a stable and calm character, Tian is especially good at fine and meticulous brush or blade work. His captivation to this art form and exploration for years has helped him nurture a unique series of his own peach pit carving techniques.

Zhong Kui the Demon Subduer. Zhong Kui is known as the vanquisher of ghosts and all evil beings in Chinese mythology. This is a freestanding-carved peach pit sculpture featuring Zhong Kui and the demons he has subdued. The Zhong Kui here, with an extremely severe face, is sitting on the ground with his legs crossed, holding a wine vessel in one of his hands. There are ten demons standing in service around him, with one holding lanterns, one carrying the sword, one with the umbrella and another with the fan, etc.. All the demons look cautious and intimidated.

Eighteen Arahants. This is one of the best arahant-themed peach pit sculptures. Based on an ingeniously-designed structure, the vividly-crafted eighteen arahants, together with the beasts they ride and their sacred apparatus, are all well-positioned in clear layers.

Flying Kites. Eleven years after the creation of the olive stone sculptures themed on “flying kites”, the artisan came up with the idea of presenting the same theme with a set of peach pit sculptures for the 30th International Kite Festival of Weifang, the renowned Kite Town in China, in 2013. Thirteen kids were crafted by the use of techniques of openwork and freestanding carving, each of them holding a kite that is different from another.

A centipede kite with a vivid dragon head is leading the group, followed by 10 kites in various shapes such as bagua, swallows, goldfish, butterflies, eagles, etc., all of which are the representative kite forms of Weifang.

Vase with a Handle for Lifting. This is a piece of peach pit sculpture that reveals the artisan’s innovation in terms of subject-selection. This vase, with elephant ears, dragon-engraved lid and two removable loops on the side, was crafted on one single peach pit.

The decorative motifs are based on ancient Chinese anecdotes, with one featuring the renowned calligraphy Wang Xizhi (303-361 AD) and his beloved geese, and the other illustrating the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi exiting the Hanguguan Pass. The flexible handle and chains were created on another peach pit and installed to this one. Regarding the chains, there are sixteen loops on each of the two side ones and eleven on the middle one, and the joints done when sculpting have no glue or any other kind of adhesive used.

A Million Brave Soldiers Crossing the Yangtze River.

Dragon Boat. On this two-story dragon boat, the artisan crafted seventeen doors and windows that can open and close as in real-life. Through these open doors or windows, the characters inside the compartment can be clearly seen.

Vanquish All the Demons in One Fishing Net. It took the artisan six months based on the application of freestanding and openwork carving techniques to finish this artwork, after the idea struck him when working on another peach pit sculpture named The Fisherman Family.

Still on the theme of Zhong Kui the vanquisher of demons, the artisan added innovation to this piece by creating a scene of Zhong Kui caching evil ghosts with a fishing net as opposed to the well-known sword. Two of the ugly evil creatures are carrying Zhong Kui on a bamboo sedan, while the subduer is holding a fan in one hand and a chain on the other with one end of the chain attaching a fishing net that is wide open, under which three demons are struggling in misery. The other demon characters are all in different poses and expressions, one holding a lantern, one holding a banana leaf as umbrella for Zhong Kui, one sneaking wine from the jar he is carrying, one busy tying the trapped demons, etc.

A Fisherman Family. It took the artisan more than one year to realize his refined ideas on the old sculpture of the same name and finally present this one in front of the viewers. It displays a scene of a three-generation fisherman family busy fishing in coordination and reaping a good harvest. All the three generations of fishermen are on the raft, the grandfather casting the net with a basket tied to his waist, the father busy rowing the boat, one of the grandson loading fish into a basket from the net while the other grandson catching fish with a diddle net. There are also a straw rain jacket, some fish and a crab cage hanging on the boat, with cormorants flying around or resting on the raft, creating a happy harvest scene.

Looking from the other side, the father is busy rowing the boat, one of the grandson is loading fish into a basket from the net while the other grandson catching fish with a diddle net. There are also a straw rain jacket, some fish and a crab cage hanging on the boat, with cormorants flying around or resting on the raft, creating a happy harvest scene.

Autumn Beauty. This piece of artwork shows the artisan’s new attempt in terms of subjects and sculpting skills with the peach pit. By use of freestanding sculpting, the creator presented a beautiful autumn scene in a paddy field with paddy crops, birds, crabs, withered lotus flowers and dried lotus seed pods, etc. The removable lotus seeds in the pods, along with the jumping fish at the base of the sculpture, add special liveliness to the item.

Making optimal use of the natural grains on peach pits, Tian has crafted many amazingly fabulous pieces by attaching greater importance to the composition and details based on inheritance and innovation of the traditional peach pit carving techniques of Weifang in China’s eastern Shandong province.

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