of microscopic carving generally refers to the engraving of infinitesimal
characters on ivory or human hair. The artist engaged in this unique craft, when
he applies the graver, cannot see the work he is doing but has to depend on
feel. The art is therefore sometimes described as "carving by one's will".
32 pictures on a sago seed
There are such sculptors of microscopic carving in many cities of
China, who can engrave on small grains of ivory poems, paintings and miniature
seal marks in no less than 10 different colors.
Microscopic carving on human hair is a new art developed only in recent
years, being pioneered by Shen Weizhong, a member of the Suzhou Arts and Crafts
Research Institute. On a hair several millimeters long and without the help of
any magnifying apparatus, the artist can engrave poems or other texts by relying
on the feel of his fingers. To achieve this, he needs an absolutely quiet
environment, in which, holding his breath and controlling his pulse by
meditative power, he plies his art with a cutting wire thinner than the hair. To
read the surprisingly neat characters on the finished work, it is necessary to
magnify them several dozen times with a microscope.
Hair carving has been developed on the basis of fine-character carving, which
has always been a Chinese tradition. Its rudiments may be traced back more than
2,000 years. On the fragments of oracle bones of the Western Zhou period (11th
century BC - 256 BC), unearthed in Guyuan of Shaanxi Province, have been found
small carved characters the size of rice grains with hair-thin strokes.
Archaeologists have also found on the much earlier Yin oracle bones miniature
engravings the size of millet, legible only under 5-fold magnification.
7mm x 6mm
Artists of today with their assiduous study and experiment have given the
age-old art a new luster.