Yungang silk dolls

( Updated: 2021-08-06


This trio of Yungang silk dolls, showcases their aesthetic excellence.  [Photo/Datong Evening News]

The Yungang silk dolls from Yungang district of Datong city in North China's Shanxi province are cherished household possessions of the locals.

They use materials such as satin, silk, gauze, crepe and brocade to represent the creative figures of opera characters, the Buddhist statues in the Yungang Grottoes and sculptures of the Huayan Temple – employing strong local characteristics. 

Of these, the so-called Kang's silk dolls are widely regarded as the most famous kind of Yungang silk dolls. 


Kang Qiaoling, founder of the famous silk dolls bearing her name. [Photo/Datong Evening News]

They started being produced by the late Kang Qiaoling, who was engaged in folk art in her early years and was a famous performer of the Xihe Drum folk performance in the 1960s. 

A long career in Chinese folk arts had made her familiar with Chinese history and from the 1980s, Kang devoted herself to the development of silk sculptures in the shape of opera characters. 

Compared with silk dolls from other places, Kang's silk dolls are not hand-painted silk clothing, but instead use natural fabrics with fine stitching and a little embellishment – making them natural, smooth and vivid. 

Kang's works have featured in numerous large-scale exhibitions in China and have also been displayed in exhibitions in France, Germany, Austria, Malaysia, Kuwait and Israel. 

Her creative successors have inherited her production techniques and combined the handicraft with contemporary fashion, updating new character models and themes. 


A delicate Yungang silk doll, which seems wonderfully serene. [Photo/Datong Evening News]

In 2009, Kang's silk dolls were selected to join the official list recognizing Datong's intangible cultural heritage. 

Nowadays, due to the continuous improvement of its silk doll craftsmanship and product updates, the Yungang silk dolls can be widely seen at touring domestic exhibitions, especially in lantern exhibitions. 

In addition, Datong has established a factory to achieve mass production of the Yungang silk dolls which sell well across the country and overseas, particularly in Japan and the United States.

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