Master maker must think small
Zhang Xiongyi, 57, is an inheritor of the national-level intangible cultural heritage of Liu Shen Wan (medicinal herbs) used to cure inflammation and mouth ulcers.
Liu Shen Wan involves four techniques, including rolling, to make the powder that is turned into very small pills with a diameter of 1.5 millimeters and a weight of 3.125 milligrams. The allowed deviation is just 0.5 percent.
"Although the four techniques are easy, it is not easy to combine them and make a pill, which requires years of practice to meet the requirement," said Zhang.
"You need to concentrate on it with heart," he added.
Zhang learned the skill when he was 20. It took him three years to grasp the technique, and another two to master the requirements.
"In a society with such advanced science and technology development, machinery can still not replace humans in terms of Liu Shen Wan making," said Zhang. He added that even the packaging of the pills is done by hand as machines can't recognize such tiny pills.
Zhang can control the deviation of diameter and weight at 0.2 or 0.3 percent.
"It requires frequent exercise," he said. "I make careful observations during making, and the strength of rolling and careful hearing during rolling is also of great significance to reduce the deviation.
"An error in the size of the pill can be noticed obviously," he said.
Zhang said because the work is extremely boring, his other five peers had all quit.
"But I want to keep it and pass it to the younger generation because I love the old craft," he said.