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There's more to beans than curd and paste; they can also be made into elaborate artworks.

Bean painting, where beans are used as the raw material, is a kind of folk art, adopting artistic characteristics from Chinese traditional painting, sculpting and decorative arts. Instead of completely imitating traditional arts, the genre boasts its own special flavor.

Yang Jing, who works at the Palace Museum in Beijing, made the first bean painting in 1987. Since then, bean painting has developed from the simple to the complex and includes nearly 100 types.

The procedure of bean painting is as follows: Choose many beans of various colors, shapes and sizes, braise or boil them at a high temperature, arrange them with flowers and paper streamers, and finally affix them onto different paperboards.

With its various contents, themes and shapes, such as landscapes, birds, flowers, animals and figures, bean painting is very well known. It incorporates both sculpting and the color and line effects of drawing to feature a rare folk flavor that expresses fortune and happiness. Representative works such as "Loving Mother" and "Spend the New Year", which are full of simple folk-custom flavors, are pleasing to both the eye and the mind. Other bean paintings like "Three Monks" and "Whistle Jigs To A Milestone" recount popular folk tales and teach a profound moral lesson. All bean paintings are filled with an old Beijing spice and a tinge of daily life.

Bean-painting artists aspire to achieving realism in their works, paying a great deal of attention to mastering lifelike expressions and gestures. The most distinct feature of bean painting is simplicity tinged with exaggeration to emphasize an abundance of sensations.

Bean collecting adheres to a series of strict steps: Beans chosen for pictures must first be processed so they will not rot or mold. Bean painting not only serves as an ornament but also appeals to collectors.

When making bean paintings, artists try their best to take advantage of the original colors and shapes of beans to express the proper themes incisively and vividly without damaging their natural appeal. Hence, properly combining the beans, and gluing and cutting them are also a must.

Compared to tooth and jade sculpting, beans are easier to deal with. However, artists must possess an extraordinary imagination to arrange these ordinary materials to make a truly unique picture.

Expressing various themes, bean painting is a precious handmade artwork that calls on special artistic characteristics. First of all, the picture's composition must serve a decorative function; secondly, the original bean colors must be used as the main hue to produce a colorful picture expressing brightness and joy; and lastly, the works should reflect real life.

Combining the merits of other folk arts and its own special characteristics, bean painting is deeply loved by Chinese people and foreigners. Such works have become very popular gift among friends and relatives.

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