Best season to travel to Beijing

Sugar Figurines

Sugar candies are blown into vivid figurines in an instant

Blowing sugar-coated figurines used to be a profession in old Beijing. The art, called "Chui Tang Ren" by Beijingers, is one of the Chinese folk handicrafts. Vendors take their equipment walking around different streets and blow sugar-coated figurines based on customers' taste. Their specialised equipment has a small charcoal stove which is filled with melted maltose. Before blowing, the vendors would take a little bit of melted maltose by a shovel. Then they blow the sugar while shaping it by hands. You can get various shapes according to your preference. Rabbits, rats, cats, pigs, and other animals are all popular choices. After the sugar is blown into shapes, vendors would put a stick with some melted sugar from the bottom of the figurine so that you can hold it.

This art has been passed across generations for about 600 years. In the past, it was mostly meant to entertain and cheer up kids. Now the sugar-coated figurines are not only for children but have also received attention as folk art. Nowadays it's becoming more challenging to find sugar figurine artists in Beijing. The best chance to meet them is going to one of the temple fairs during the Spring Festival celebrations. The dates are usually the first seven days of the first lunar month that usually fall between late January to February.

The price of blown sugar-coated figurines is also different from the old times. In the early 80s, children could get a sugar-coated figurine in exchange for a tube of toothpaste. Now you may need to spend tens of renminbis to purchase one. You can also blow the sugar while the vendor is making the shape for you.