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 specialized equipment has a small charcoal stove which is filled with melted maltose. Before blowing, the vendors scoop up a little bit of melted maltose by using 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 insert a stick with some melted sugar from the bottom of the figurine so that it will be easier to hold it.
This art has been passed down 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 by going to one of the temple fairs during the Spring Festival celebrations. The dates are usually during the first seven days of the first lunar month that usually falls in 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.