This detailed artwork was carved into an olive pit in 1737
Over centuries, artists have liked to challenge themselves with exploring new media, colors, styles and size. Chinese artists and artisans have enjoyed toying with art and architecture of grandiose and microscopic size. The 2500km long Chinese Wall took 2000 years to build (from 3rd century B.C. till 1700 A.D.), yet its complexity can be mirrored in miniature art such as this olive pit carved by Ch’en Tsu-chang in 1737.
According to the National Palace Museum of China, Ch’en Tsu-chang, originally from Kwangtung, entered the Imperial Bureau of Manufacture in the Yung-cheng reign, which lasted from 1723-1735. Inspired by the poet Su Tung-p’o, Ch’en took a tiny olive pit and morphed it into a unique 17×34 mm small creation.
Moved by the oval shape of the pit, he carved a boat with eight figures seated inside it: the poet and his friends. He gave plenty of attention to its outside as well: on the bottom of the boat Ch’en exquisitely carved more than 300 characters of Su’s poem, Latter Ode on the Red Cliff, which describes how the poet enjoyed a boat ride with his friends under the full moonlit sky.