Taipei, Feb. 11 (CNA) Two Santa Clause figurines mounted on the tip of a pencil 0.2 cm in diameter are Taiwanese micro-sculptor Chen Forng-shean's attempt to create the world's smallest. Each Santa Claus measures 0.05 cm in length, 0.05 cm in width and 0.08 cm in height. The result of dozens of failed attempts over a month, the micro-Santa Clauses were unveiled last Christmas, according to Chen, who retired in mid-2011 from the government's engraving and printing plant. The hardest part of creating the Santa Clauses were their expressions, coloring the clothes and giving their toy sacks a 3-D feel, Chen said. The 57-year-old sculptor said his next attempt will be to inscribe Communist Party of China
's new leader Xi Jinping on a grain of rice, a project that he said will take over a month. The owner of the Chen Forng-shean Miniature Art Museum in New Taipei's Xindian District, Chen has been devoted to micro-art for over three decades and regularly launches new pieces. The museum, only open to the public on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. -17:00 p.m., houses a myriad of tiny sculptures or inscriptions that are updated every three months. The museum was set up in 1997 near the Bitan scenic area to promote the rare art form that is gradually being lost. Visitors to the museum can not only appreciate the artworks but create their own works using tools available on site. The sculptures can take the form of works set inside the eye of a sewing needle, or inscriptions on objects as small as a grain of sand or as thin as the membrane of an eggshell. They can also be fashioned from various materials. For example, Chen has carved two goldfish that have been attached to the bottom of a teacup. From tiny pieces of emerald, he has created a tea pot 0.5 mm in length, 0.3 mm in width and 0.4 mm in height. Last November, Chen unveiled a sculpture to mark the Year of the Snake -- the seventh in Chen's collection of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals launched on the eve of the Lunar New Year -- of a golden python swallowing an elephant that Chen describes as the world's smallest of its kind. According to Chen, the sculpture carries a message urging the government to take the lead in getting Taiwan through the current economic downturn. Chen said his foray into micro-art is inspired by his desire to create his own niche in the highly developed realm of Chinese landscape painting and traditional sculpture. The road has proven to be not an easy one. He had to teach himself the craft in the absence of teachers in Taiwan to learn from and also had to create the special tools required to make his work possible. In addition to micro-sculptures, Chen has also made a name for himself by engraving, writing and painting tiny objects. One of his signature works are two miniature books --one written in Mandarin Chinese and the other in English -- that Chen made in 2011 by copying from "Le Petit Prince." Each book, 0.2 cm in length and 0.25 cm in width, has 2,400 words written over 16 pages with a brush in ink on draft paper. On the cover, Chen painted colored illustrations of the Little Prince, with his red scarf, sitting on a rock and watering flowers. These and other works are among over 120 created by Chen.
They include writing on a bee's wing, that was unveiled at the 2010 International Exhibition of Calligraphy in Russia, where Chen was the only Taiwanese exhibitor. On grains of rice, Chen has succeeded in inscribing the Taipei 101 skyscraper and the Great Wall of China. On a sesame seed, he has managed to squeeze all of the 35 words from a poem by a famous Chinese poet. All three pieces were displayed at the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition. Despite all the publicity he has gained as a frequent exhibitor, Chen wants to preserve his independence as an artist and remain unmoved in the face of collectors who offer handsome prices for his creations. The art of inscribing small objects dates back to the oracle bone writings of the Western Zhou period (1046-771 B.C.) in ancient China. Later applications of the craft include fine writing in bookkeeping and cheat sheets seen in traditional Chinese civil service examinations, according to Chen. As an artistic expression, the craft of carving small objects such as fruit pits peaked around the Ming and Qing dynasties. Aristocrats played with them and collected them in curio boxes, according to Chen. Micro-art suffered a setback during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s-70s. Chen, Lou Fei-hsin and Sun Wen-Hsiung, who like Chen is a former worker at the government's engraving and printing plant, are among the few in Taiwan that still practice the craft. The museum can be found at No. 17, Lane 207, Section 1, Ankang Rd, in the Xindian District of New Taipei. (By Huang Hsu-sheng and Scully Hsiao)