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Mianhua – Art Created with Flour

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Fermented wheat flour (sometimes mixed with glutinous rice flour) kneaded into various shapes (animals, flowers, fruits) steamed and then colored gives birth to the beautiful and unusual Chinese art called mianhua (面花).

 

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No patterns are used, but fingers; and though it seems very hard and time-consuming, for an expert in mianhua around 6 minutes are enough to make a beautiful and colored dough sculpture.Dough sculptures are sweet in taste. The colors are given mixing natural, colorful vegetable juices into wheat flour.

 

 

Mianhua’s Origins

Mianhua is related to the custom of sacrificial rites. Three thousand years ago in the Shang Dynasty, when an important person was dying, all their slaves were buried alive with the master.These days, during the Qingming Festival (festival in which dead people are venerated), people in Shaanxi Province water the graves and offer mianhua as sacrifices to ancestors.

 

 

 

Mianhua Today

Nowadays mianhua is not only related to funerals, being also used as a gift, mainly to newly married couples.

 

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The mianhua in the shape of a chain expresses the hope that the newly married couple will happily live together to an old age.

 

According to a local custom, when going to visit her parents’ home, a married woman must bring them half a basket of mianhua. The ring-shaped dough sculpture is given to her parents and other elder relatives, expressing the wish that their lives will be long, as the ring goes round, without an end.

 

The mianhua shaped like a rabbit are given to little girls with the meaning that they should be as lovely and smart as a white rabbit and a tiger-shaped mianhua is given to boys, to show the wish that he would become as strong as a tiger.

 

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I must say I’m amazed by what pieces of art Chinese can make out of simple things as flour and by their speed when creating a mianhua. I was lucky enough to be able to see a Chinese making mianhua. She was just impressive, making a dough bird in less than 2 minutes.

 

I’ve never tried making a dough sculpture, though I’m really curious if I’d manage to make at least a dough snowman XD

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