Xinzhuang's eggshell painting tradition enriched by two generations of artists
An octogenarian in Xinzhuang Town of Minhang District has spent 17 years practicing eggshell painting, and his 36-year-old disciple is now enriching the art through innovation and diligent work.
Vibrant colors of red, orange, yellow and cyan on eggshells of poultry or rare birds portray traditional Chinese opera figures, landscapes and flower and bird paintings, or adorable cartoon figures.
Eggshell painting in Xinzhuang has been passed on and developed thanks to two generations of eggshell painting artists – Fei Yongquan and Jiang Lanjun.
"A recent work of mine is about the passing of four seasons, an eggshell painting on an ostrich egg," said Jiang, who is in her mid-30s.
Eggshell painting is a folk craft painted on the shell of poultry eggs, originating from the ancient egg culture in China.
It has auspicious expressions such as eliminating disasters and difficulties, and achieving good fortune.
Legend has it that Pangu, who created heaven and Earth, was born from an egg. In ancient Chinese culture, eggs were a symbol of fertility and completeness, conveying people's reverence for life and reproduction.
Eggshell painting can date back 2,000 years to a folk custom in China for coloring eggshells before cooking, with later variants such as the "God of Joy" eggs in wedding customs, the "Ding Ding" eggs sent to mothers and birthday eggs sent to the elderly.
The craft is also a way of turning waste into treasure, making eggshells of poultry and rare birds such as chickens, ducks, geese and quails into media of treasured art.
However, as a niche art, eggshell painting is only produced by a few folk artists in their spare time, and is in urgent need of being promoted and taught to more people.
Jiang heard about eggshell painting from her mother when she was 5. Every time she saw her mother draw on an eggshell, Jiang became deeply engrossed. When she was 6, she began to learn to draw and tried to do her eggshell paintings.
"Drawing on eggshells is different from drawing on paper because the latter is flat drawing while the former is three-dimensional drawing. Therefore, to learn eggshell painting well, I also practiced to improve the stability of my hands," Jiang said.
In 2018, she met the famous eggshell painter Fei. Fei learned that Jiang had excellent painting skills and had been studying eggshell painting since childhood, while Jiang learned that Fei had been troubled by not finding a successor.
Later, Fei convinced Jiang to become his successor.
She started to visit elderly artists of eggshell painting and compiled their master techniques and theoretical knowledge into written materials. She also produced a series of online teaching videos targeting students of different ages and backgrounds.
Jiang's online courses won the National Excellent Micro Course Award in 2022. She also regularly went to Xinzhuang Community School and Youth Activity Center to deliver lectures, and taught children in primary and secondary schools during winter and summer vacations.
In 2022, Jiang created a series of cute "Dabai" figures, volunteers offering support during the COVID-19 pandemic, on eggshells.
As an inheritor of eggshell painting in the new era, Jiang never stopped innovating and expanding the field of eggshell paintings.
She made eggshell paintings into frames, key fobs, blind boxes and garage kits, among other uses. She also incorporates traditional Chinese folk culture into her work.
This year, she integrated elements such as Chang'e, a legendary Chinese fairy who dwells on the moon, pearls, rabbits and the Xinzhuang Lantern Festival into her eggshell paintings.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the merger of Xinzhuang Town and its villages. As an inheritor of Xinzhuang eggshell painting, Jiang designed courses on eggshell painting to mark the anniversary.
The courses will lead students to create eggshell paintings inspired by the historical changes in Xinzhuang in transportation, community governance, cultural aspects and business in the past three decades. The courses will also be recorded as online videos for everyone to watch and learn.