Dec 05, 2012

Handmade Beijing silk figurines are a sought after souvenir in China and a proud representation of the amazing and talented skills of Chinese craftsmen. Beijing silk figurines are lined in silk from head to toe. The face and hands are made from natural silk.

The rest of the body is made from fine silk cloth.Plumbum wire is used to construct the delicate frame. Gauze and cotton form the shape of the body. The eyes can take on many qualities and give the figure a realistic presence.

The hair is made from thin black threads and is evenly arranged into a bun. The unique and distinctive facial features are painted onto the figure with special colours and pens. The clothing and accessories are also made from silk and feature stunning embroidered patterns.

It can take artisans up to two months to finish one silk figurine. There are twelve intricate steps which must be completed before the final product is finished. These include sculpting, painting, designing clothes and props and arranging hair.


The figurines can be young men or women depicted in folktales, operas or traditional dramas. Many artists focus on a particular ethnic style for the figurines. The artisan portrays the essence of a moment captured in time by the figurine’s facial expression and positioning.

With a history of over one thousand years, Beijing silk figurines have adapted into a sophisticated and recognized folk art. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), figurines were made from paper covered over a bamboo base. Developing on this notion, silk clothing and accessories were added to the paper and bamboo frame in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) creating the first basic silk figurines.

In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), silk figurines of the god and goddess of longevity were often given to older people on their birthday as a symbol for long life. Silk figurines also became popular among high officials and the wealthy as art decorations in the home.


Unfortunately, after the end of the Qing Dynasty, the folk art diminished dramatically due to wars and social unrest. It wasn’t until the formation of the People’s Republic of China (1949) that artisans were encouraged to start making silk figurines again and the folk art was promoted as an important part of traditional Chinese heritage.

In 1954, China was invited to participate in the annual ‘International Doll Fair’ in India. The Ministry of Culture assigned famous female artists to create silk figurines displaying women from different ethnic minorities. The figures were widely regarded as astonishing art works. A research team was then established to promote and support the making of silk figurines.

Beijing silk figurines are highly valued and widely appreciated as part of China’s traditional cultural heritage. They set a high standard for folk arts and its exquisite styles and techniques continue to grow and develop.


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