Lying in the north of Henan Province, Xunxian County, once called Liyang in the ancient times, was a crucial town scrambled by warlords in all dynasties. On this age-old former battlefield are people living and working in peace and contentment today. Each January 15th and July 15th here in the lunar calendar are big days for folk people because of the grand traditional temple fairs held.
There are so many people coming here for trade that stalls of various sizes adjoin each other, extending all the way to the ancient temple in the suburb. The most conspicuous things on the market are clay figurines of primitive shapes and bright colors. Most of them are in the shape of animals: chicken, dogs, horses, monkeys, lions, swallows, etc. They are also called “color clay figurines” for their painting outside. Actually, they also have a name of “clay toys” because visitors will usually buy some for their children at home. With holes going through inside, these “clay toys” are capable of making melodious sound when blown at the outlet, which has added much fun to those little statues besides winning another name--clay whistles. Pleasant whistles that echo through villages and fields, together with happy young laughers, have decorated the childhood dreams of numerous people for many generations.
With countless clay artists in the Xunxian County, the most famous one is “Clay Monkey Zhang” – Zhang Xihe, the clay master who has once been to the U.S to give lectures and performances, the one who is well-known to nearly every local resident.
Born in a village of Xunxian County, “Clay Monkey Zhang” was influenced by local clay artist when still quite young. On temple fairs, he was so infatuated with those clay monkeys on the market that he would hardly move his steps and eyes. He began to buy clay monkeys home to copy them, which proved to be failures. As a modest man always willing to learn, he consulted senior clay artist for skills. Finally, he succeeded in creating his own monkey series of vivid, funny features and distinct characters. Most of the clay monkeys made by Clay Monkey Zhang are of a single color, yet with personated, exaggerated and distorted features. These “happy”, “angry”, or “pissing”, “smoking”, “ball-kicking” and “dancing” clay monkeys richly endowed with emotions of human beings. To emphasize this, clay monkeys made by “Clay Monkey Zhang” are distinct with their large heads, delicate expressions yet relatively small bodies.
Address of producer: Xunxian County, Hebi City