Traditional Art Uses Building Blocks of Rice

 

Folk artist Chen Guorui was thrilled after finishing his latest work earlier this month — a pagoda model made with around 12,500 grains of rice.

Chen is an inheritor of a technique originating in Gaolou village in Fuzhou, Fujian province, that uses rice and rice paste to create various delicate works of art. The technique has hundreds of years of history.

The pagoda is 23 centimeters square and 43 cm high. Chen spent 27 days completing the work, a scaled-down version of Puming Pagoda at Hanshan Temple in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.

He said he needed to maintain its symmetry as he added to its height. The bottom has four stairs on four sides, so their height should be identical to keep the pagoda vertical. To do that, the length of individual rice grains is important.

“There cannot be even 1 millimeter difference,” he said.

What is unique about this model compared with his other works is that it can be torn down and pieced together as desired.

On Feb 9, the technique was enrolled in the 7th representative list of intangible cultural heritage in Fujian province. Chen was excited to hear the news.

“I hope each one of the rice artworks can be preserved as long as possible,” he said.

He added that change and innovation are essential to pass down some traditions. In recent years, he has taught at schools to spread the art among young people.