Painted egg-shell is a folk custom craftwork to paint pictures on the shells of chicken and goose eggs. The pictures look fresh, concise, exquisite and lovely. The eggshells are erected downside, showing stereoscopic feeling on the sides. The painted egg-shells are covered with exquisite glass frames, with unique styles. They are processed in Wenzhou, Lucheng, Rui’an, Pingyang and Cangnan of Zhejiang province, largely for exports.
Whenever they construct a house, the Bai ethnic group living in Heqing county, Yunnan province, would hang a treasure jar on the girder in time of erecting poles and girders. The treasure jar contains “five nuts” (lotus, laurels, pine nuts, melon seeds, and sunflower seeds), “five treasures” (silver, rice, salt, brown sugar and tea), and “five dragon water” (water from five ponds). The jar will also contain a painted goose eggshell, known as “precious gallbladder”.
When the house construction was completed, a ceremony would be held to “calm the dragon and settle the earth”. A “treasure jar” containing a “precious gallbladder” would be buried in the axes of the new house. It was said that the “treasure jar” would be installed to eliminate disasters and beckon good lucks. In wedding customs, the quilts of the newly weds would be loaded in the four corners with the “five nuts”, chopsticks, jujubes, and four painted eggs, known as “pregnancy deity” eggs. The bride would present guests with cooked and painted eggs. Besides, the Tianding (have a baby born into the family) eggs sent to lying-in women must be painted eggs. The eggs presented to the elders to congratulate their birthdays are also painted eggs….
Painted egg-shells are designed in diversified modes. They are largely classified into three major types, which are facial make-up, portraits and “string paintings”.
Facial make-ups take the egg as the head, and draw a countenance in both the front and back of the “head”. The paintings are adopted from opera facial make-ups, such as God of Wealth, Guan Yu, arhats…. They are more often taken from primitive religious deity charts and worldly figures, such as Heavenly Father, Earthly Mother, Hunt God, Water God, Mountain God, Beast God, Children-sending Goddess, Pregnancy God, Longevity God, Golden Boy, Jade Girl, Dragon King…
Such paintings are not so meticulous in composition of pictures. Instead, they stress comprehension and exaggeration. With the aid of the artistic measures of well matched colors for foil and contrast, and symmetrical and echoing lines and patterns, the painted egg-shells leave audiences with rich imaginations and aesthetic enjoyment. Facial make-up drawings pursue plump modeling effects, in which the external contours look round, while the interior side are brisk in colors, smooth in lines. Deep and shallow colors are used to differentiate and cultivate the personalities, features and status of the characters.
Portraits are decoration paintings drawn on the eggshells, such as the twelve animals; representing the twelve Earthly Branches, the 12 maidens in the Dream of Red Mansions, the 18 arhats, the God of Longevity, and the Queen Mother of the West. They are exaggerated in models, simple and robust in lines, forceful in turns, bright and pleasing in colors, strong in contrasts, rich in local features.
They are generally painted in gift eggs for birthday ceremonies and Tianding ceremonies. “String paintings”, also known as group paintings, have wide-ranging themes, largely eulogizing auspicious and marvelous lives. They are known for pictures on babies, beauties, auspiciousness; symbols of good fortune, ample salary, longevity, happy life and great wealth; having a baby born into the family, having wealth brought to the family, folk customs activities, and opera stories…. The paintings relate to almost every aspect of people’s lives. They are largely drawn as free-style paintings, with exaggerated arrangement and sharply contrasted colors, to materialize the plain and bold nature of the primitive art.