How Chinese Artisans Turn Dead Cicadas Into ‘Hairy Monkeys’

These traditional handicrafts require exoskeletons, magnolia buds, and a steady hand.


Along the gray brick houses of Beijing’s hutongs, or traditional neighborhoods, stores are lined wall to wall with the typical Chinese arts and crafts—paintings and calligraphy, engraved lacquer, or cloisonné vases. In a shop across the street from the Temple of Confucius, calabash gourds dangle from the ceiling while shelves are stacked with handmade wooden appliances. Furry little figurines re-enact snapshots from Old Beijing. Some are posed selling bright red skewers of candied hawthorn, another pair plays Chinese yo-yo in the park. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the figurines’ limbs are made of insect legs.


These figurines, called maohou in Mandarin (directly translating to “hairy monkeys”), are an obscure folk craft made with the fuzzy bud of a magnolia flower and the sloughed exoskeleton of a cicada. The dioramas typically capture an essence of Beijing folk life, harkening back to a time before urbanization uprooted the ambiance of the ancient city.


Read the full story at Atlas Obscura.

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