The art of ornamental design has been part of
Chinese culture for thousands
of years. Art and craft have gone hand in hand to create items of great beauty
and functionality. Beauty and functionality are inseparable from each other, for
beauty itself is a function in
Chinese culture. Each shares in equal importance. Intricately painted
wall scrolls, highly ornamented hand fans, and other items of
Chinese art are
well known. Not so the Chinese Puzzle Ball. The Chinese Puzzle Ball is one of
the summits of Chinese ornamental design and beauty. These complex objects are
thought to have an influence on the unity of the family. These puzzle balls come
in many sizes, and can be made of ivory, wood, resin, soapstone or jade. Most
are handmade, and consist of an outer sphere that contains smaller, movable
spheres. They generally come in balls of 4-18 'layers'
The concentric layers or balls are open work carvings of plants, animals, dragons. They are an amazing display of craftsmanship. The outermost sphere is usually the most decorated, many times with dragons. The layers of the ball can be thought of as symbolizing, as a four-layer ball can symbolize the four basic elements of earth, wind, fire and water, or the four directions of the compass. These multi-layered balls are one of the wonders of Chinese craftsmanship, practiced since ancient times. They are also rightfully known as Mystery Balls. Once they are seen and it is remembered that these balls are created out of a single sphere, you may consider them a mystery too!
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