Pit carving is a traditional, Chinese artistic technique recognized as one of China’s Intangible Cultural Heritages in 2008.
Artisans carve with pits of a variety of fruits, among which peaches, olives, apricots, walnuts, and pines are most common.
Artisans also carve within the microscopic area of a pit to create an uncanny masterpiece.
Cai Qingzhu is a 53-year-old artisan, and he has devoted over thirty years to pit carving.
In the video, he proudly introduced a piece of “pit boat” that boasts of six carefully inscribed characters on it and a flexible window despite its size being narrower than a peanut.
The pieces shown are about the size of a fingertip, and Cai revealed that the essence lies in precision.
Cai indicated that artisans always draft the blueprint in mind and carve it directly as there is no space to sketch beforehand by drawing.
He explained, “The head of a character is equivalent to the size of sesame; the space between an eye and an eyebrow is merely the width of the cutting edge.”
As palms, each pit has its unique pattern, which makes every piece of work one of a kind.
Cai pointed out that immense practice over many years is required to master pit carving.
He revealed that he has had many apprentices, but they often end up dropping out, leading him to express concerns about the future of such traditional craft.