Edible Art: “糖画(tánghuà)” Sugar Painting

Have you ever heard of Chinese “糖画(tánghuà) sugar painting?” If not, check out the video below for a glimpse of this intricate, edible art!

Have you ever seen anything like what the artist makes in the video? Do you think the way “糖画(tánghuà)” is made is pretty amazing?
If you visit China, you might find that in many places, like temple fairs, country fairs, parks, tourist streets, alleys, and so on, there are vendors selling special, edible paintings drawn on-site with hot, liquid brown sugar. This kind of painting is known as “糖画(tánghuà).” They can be both appreciated as works of art and eaten as sweet treats. Characterized by various patterns, vivid shapes and bright colors, these unique “糖画(tánghuà)” are widely popular, especially among kids.

糖画(tánghuà) for butterfly

“糖画(tánghuà),” a traditional Chinese folk handicraft with a history of more than 500 years, originated in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and gained more popularity in the Qing Dynasty (1616-1912). It is said that this handicraft was born in Si Chuan province (in southwest China) and gradually, due to its unique charm, “糖画(tánghuà)” gained wider recognition around the country.

According to some academic studies, at the very beginning, the ancient Chinese created small animals made of sugar in molds for their religious rituals. Later, further development of this sugar art was achieved by employing the techniques of Chinese shadow puppetry and Chinese paper cutting. As time passed, it gradually evolved into the contemporary “糖画(tánghuà)” that it is today.

糖画(tánghuà) for dragon

“糖画(tánghuà)” fall into two main categories: plane painting and solid painting. Generally speaking, it is comparatively easier to do the former and the more complex latter one requires more excellent craftsmanship.

糖画(tánghuà) for flower

With just brown or white sugar as the raw material, a bronze spoon and spatula as tools, and a slab of marble as the “paper,” the artisan creates these exquisite works of art. One step that needs to be done before painting is to melt the solid sugar in a pot. The sugar is ready when it becomes liquid sugar which can then be used to produce thin threads on the marble.
Then the artist begins his or her creation while the extra sugar melts nearby on a gentle fire. The liquid sugar falls down in a thin thread onto the “paper” from the tilted spoon. Usually the artisan paints without looking at anything for reference. Each creation comes right from the imagination and the work has to be accomplished very quickly since the hot, liquid sugar will become solid if it cools. While the thin threads of liquid sugar drizzle onto the marble, a vivid image, like that of a bird, insect, fish, dragon, or phoenix, will take shape within several minutes. The creation is quite a sight to behold. When the painting is finished, the artist easily separates the creation from the marble with the spatula, attaches a wooden stick with which to hold it, and hands it to the customer.

糖画(tánghuà) is welcomed by kids

Isn’t it a marvelous traditional handcraft? If you come to China, please make sure you give “糖画(tánghuà)” a try!

HSK 3 quiz

1. In which dynasty did “糖画(tánghuà)” originate?
A. The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).
B. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
C. The Qing Dynasty (1616-1912).
2. The following are two main types of “糖画(tánghuà)”except _____ .
A. Plane painting.
B. Solid painting.
C. Liquid painting.
3. Why does the painter have to make the “糖画(tánghuà)” very quickly?
A. Since the hot liquid sugar would easily stick to the marble if it cools.
B. Since the hot liquid sugar would easily change its color if it cools.
C. Since the hot liquid sugar would easily become solid if it cools.

Chinese Culture
HSK Test
General Chinese (Beginner Level) 
General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

3 thoughts on “Edible Art: “糖画(tánghuà)” Sugar Painting”

  1. I like this composition, it remained me my childhood. And this marvelous art should be continuous, really I think it is very important!!

    1. jennifer.zhu

      I‘m glad to hear that. We will keep updating more posts, please feel free to check.

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