Various completed figures on sale.

Sugar people (糖人: Tángrén) is a traditional Chinese form of folk art using hot, liquid sugar to create three-dimensional figures.[1][2]

These fragile, plump figures have a distinct brownish-yellow colour, usually with yellow or green pigment added. They are mainly purchased for ornamental purposes and not for consumption, due to sanitary concerns. Popular figures include animals such as dragons, roosters and pigs, and such objects as machetes and spears.

Similar to the trade of producing sugar paintings, this art form has been practiced in public places for more than 600 years,[3][4] and can still be seen today. Traditionally, artists set up their point of production and sale in areas such as markets, and outside schools, as the figures appeal to children. These days, this art form is practiced in tourist areas.

Prices can range from one or two, to tens of RMB, depending on the piece. However, during difficult economic times, artists would exchange figures for metal scraps, broken shoes, old clothing, and notably, toothpaste. Children would often scavenge for these items in order to purchase a figure.[5]


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To start, the artist heats the sugar syrup they are using (usually sucrose and maltose) to at least 170 degrees.[6] Next, the artist pulls off a section and uses his or her hands to knead it into a ball.[7] A thin straw is then inserted into the ball, and the artist begins to blow air into it, in order to slowly inflate it. Simultaneously, the artist pinches and pulls parts of the ball, by hand, or sometimes with tools such as tweezers, to produce limbs, and various shapes. Before the figure has completely cooled, colours, typically red or green, are added to the surface, and a wooden stick is inserted into the underside. The straw is then extracted, and the figure put on display for sale.

See also


  1. ^ ""吹糖人"民间老艺人丁有重操旧业 穿行乡间(图)——福客民俗网民俗资讯频道". 2007-04-26. Archived from the original on 2009-06-13. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  2. ^ "词语"吹糖人"的解释 汉典". Archived from the original on 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  3. ^ "老北京"七十二行"介绍-吹糖人-北京网北京介绍". Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  4. ^ "Sugar figurines: The sweet blows of traditional folk art-Xinhua". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  5. ^ "吹糖人的故事". 2010-09-14. Archived from the original on 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  6. ^ "The sweet art of sugar blowing: The story of Cheung Chau's candy master". Time Out Hong Kong. 2023-06-06. Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  7. ^ "Sugar figurines: The sweet blows of traditional folk art-Xinhua". Retrieved 2023-10-06.