Across China: Panda cute: Russian matryoshka dolls sport a new look

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-27 15:45:01|Editor: Xiang Bo
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HARBIN, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Matryoshka dolls usually appear in the form of pretty girls, but in China, the traditional Russian dolls also take the form of giant pandas.

With dark circles around their eyes and a bundle of bamboo in their hands, the nine chubby pandas of decreasing size are placed inside one another.

The panda matryoshka dolls were created by Yu Honglong, owner of a workshop in Yimianpo Township in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

"I have been making these dolls for more than 10 years, and the pandas are my signature product," Yu said. "By incorporating matryoshka dolls and our national treasure, I think I have covered an empty spot in the market."

Yu's business has been quite good, with the panda dolls bringing in at least 100,000 yuan (about 15,200 U.S. dollars) in revenue annually.

Yimianpo is a major production base for matryoshka dolls in China, with annual sales volume reaching nearly 15 million sets. In the early 20th century, many Russians settled in the town, once a critical point on a railway line in the northeast, and brought the craftsmanship of producing matryoshka dolls, which was passed on to Chinese residents.

Yu learned the skill from local craftsmen, but said he gradually grew bored with the "foreign faces," so he found panda pictures and started transforming the images.

During the process the wooden dolls need to be engraved and painted, Zhang Yunlai, one of Yu's staff, is in charge of painting the pandas. Carefully crafting the faces and bodies of each doll, Zhang paints hundreds of dolls on a daily basis.

As the nine dolls in each set of panda matryoshka must look exactly the same, Zhang is very careful with every stroke.

"The shape of each panda's eyes and mouth is engraved in my heart," she said. "I barely make mistakes."

Yu insists panda dolls must continue to be handmade instead of using machines.

He said the pandas are often purchased by business people in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, and also sold by stores in big cities or on e-commerce platforms. Each set can fetch as much as 50 yuan.

"I think people buy the dolls because they admire them as art, and for the giant pandas," Yu said. "I am really happy about it."