Shopping finds: Elaborately carved dried olives in China

Shopping finds: Elaborately carved dried olives in China
A bracelet made by connecting a number of carved olives.

GUANGZHOU, China - The elaborate carving technique took my breath away. It was a sculpture made of dried olives that measured just three to four centimeters, carved with a drill and other tools.

These olive products are traditional handiwork in Guangdong Province, descriptions of which have been found in literature from the Qing dynasty around the 18th century.

The number of full-fledged craftspeople who will inherit the carving technique is decreasing, and only four or five remain in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, according to sources. One of them is Zeng Xianpeng, 31, who works at the shop Guangzhou Landiao Yishu Gongzoushi.

Traditionally, carved olives feature ships and animals such as birds. However, Zeng's works include playful designs such as animation characters. Some high-end products cost at least 2,000 yuan (S$432.60) but products that cost about 40 yuan are also available in the shop.

Influenced by his craftsman father, Zeng started practicing carving about 10 years ago. He overcame the opposition of his parents, who worried about the dwindling industry.

Zeng is passionate about passing on advanced carving techniques and feels a responsibility to protect the tradition.

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