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Foundations of creativity on straw

Updated: 2023-12-16 12:06 ( China Daily )
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Xu has delivered many sorghum straw artworks over the years, such as a pavilion from Beijing's Jingshan Park.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A splendid array of straw-made miniatures of classic ancient buildings adorn Xu Jian's home. They range from the Yellow Crane Tower in Central China's Hubei province to Forbidden City's turrets in Beijing. They are all full of details and delicately crafted, tied and arranged by Xu's ingenious hands from countless sorghum straws.

"All the pillars, beams, eaves, brackets, doors and windows and everything else are crafted from sorghum stalks," Xu points to the Yellow Crane Tower that is 1 meter high at his base in Yongqing county, Langfang city, North China's Hebei province.

This particular piece was made out of hundreds of thousands of sorghum stalks and took him two years to complete without the use of any nails or glue.

"It relies entirely on interlocking, tenon-and-mortise construction," the man in his 30s explains.

The craft involves carving grooves into the sorghum stalks, before multiple stalks are then locked together through those identically sized grooves, a technique referred to as tying, Xu says, adding that the art form combines elements of geometry, physics, architecture and mechanics.

"The framework of all the carved and tied straw works is composed of six interlocked sorghum stalks. Starting from the bottom and working from the inside out, the interlocked stalks are layered, much like building a house," Xu explains.

He emphasizes that the sorghum straw art requires a great deal of patience, especially for works depicting ancient architecture.

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