Bringing the “Sweet” Customized Intangible Cultural Heritage to the World

With the golden spoon waved and liquid sugar forming delicate lines, the exquisite and delightful sugar art blossoms on the board. Li Fengyan, a sugar figurine artist, gazes gently but firmly at this “sweetness” that she loves and enjoys.

Li Fengyan, the provincial-level representative inheritor of Shenyang Li’s sugar figurine, is also the only female inheritor in her family. Originating from the Qing Dynasty, the Li’s sugar figurine was brought to Shenyang by Li Zhaofu, Li Fengyan’s forefather, who migrated from Shandong. Li Fengyan is now the fifth generation carrying forward this tradition.

Compared to the sugar figurines from other regions, the sugar figurine in Northeast China features robust and bold shapes, vibrant and intense colors, showcasing the distinctive regional characteristics and profound folk cultural connotations in Northern China. Building upon the traditional sugar figurine, Li Fengyan continuously innovates and upgrades, developing “everlasting sugar figurine,” fondant-shaped sugar figurine, long-distance transportable sugar figurine, and even “balloon” blown sugar figurine. Today, she and her team can create “customized” sugar figurines based on customer demands — ranging from the Chinese zodiac products at weddings to intangible cultural heritage souvenirs. From domestic to international, their orders spread across the global market.

After establishing a studio in Shenyang, Li Fengyan has been passing on her skills to apprentices, and her students are now scattered throughout the country. She has taken the Chinese sugar figurine abroad, having been invited to over 20 countries and regions for cultural exchanges, including Malaysia, Russia, Germany, France, New Zealand, and Singapore. Witnessing Li Fengyan’s superb performances, international friends are deeply impressed, praising the Chinese intangible cultural heritage.

In 2015, the Li’s sugar figurine was included in the “Sixth Batch of Shenyang Municipal Intangible Cultural Heritage Representative Projects”. In 2020, it was selected as part of the “Sixth Batch of Liaoning Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage Representative Projects”.

Among blowing, molding, and painting, Li Fengyan continuously creates new stories of intangible cultural heritage through her passion and dedication. In the future, she plans to establish a “Sugar Figurine Museum” covering its development history, innovative inheritance and various cultural display functions to bring more people closer to sugar figurine and let more people understand it, ensuring the continued inheritance of this craft.

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