A relatively new medium, Chinese leaf art symbolizes the universal need for artists to constantly seek new mediums to imprint their skillful images upon.

Mother Nature has been the source of a multitude of artistic inspiration down through the ages, but few representations are as intricately beautiful and fragile as leaf carving.

Considering how long mankind has been dabbling in artistic expression and how much longer than even that trees have been an integral part of the human experience and landscape, it is somewhat odd that no one ever thought of this before, but then again, who’s to question the source of artistic whimsy?

The Chinar tree, which is native to India, Pakistan and China, is the most commonly used, as the distribution of veins in these leaves greatly resemble maple leaves and are well suited for sculpting.

While this art form may appear young as a genre, in many ways it does fit in with other artistic customs exclusive to China.

“It is similar to Chinese paper cutting art, where people cut designs out of paper or other vegetable matter, and since these designs are similar, I imagine they’re using the same traditions. There is a tradition of people using things at hand out of a desire to create,” says Rob Sidner, the director of the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, which specializes in folk art.

The earliest modern record of leaf carving dates back to 1994 when an artist named Huang Tai Shang claimed to have created this art form and got into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Whatever its origins, it is an art form of great precision and skill, and it requires special tools to remove the surface of the leaf without damaging or removing the veins, which enhance the detail of the carving.

The process requires special leaves, which are picked in autumn, unbroken and without insect bites. They are then dried for at least 10 months untouched by sunshine, and then boiled for several hours to kill bacteria.

The artist begins the process by shaving and almost peeling the leaf in half with a knife. When the leaf is scraped free of its outer layers, a near transparent surface appears. After the image is carved, the leaves are carefully dried, a very volatile process, which breaks 60 percent of them.

These leaf carvings sell for between $99 and $224 depending on complexity of design. Due to the fact that most are custom ordered for personal display, major exhibitions seem unlikely, at least for now.

Check out the video below depicting some breathtaking examples of this art form.





M Dee Dubroff is the penname of this freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non fiction writing and maintains eight web sites covering a wide variety of topics. She also writes feature articles for several local newspapers. Her book entitled: A Taste of Funny, and her website, Eat, Drink And Really Be Merry (http://www.ingestandimbibe.com) feature many well researched and humorous articles on the subject of food and drink.