Guizhou craftsman brings clay whistle alive

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Guizhou craftsman brings clay whistle alive
Yao Debo creates Tongzi clay whistle. [Photo/chinanews.com]

Yao Debo, a 34-year-old craftsman, is the first generation of inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage item, clay whistle. Yao fell in love with clay whistle when he first saw it in 2019, and after studying the skill for two months, he began making them.

Tongzi clay whistle is a popular toy in Tongzi county, the northern part of Guizhou province. To make the toy, more than 10 steps, such as choosing and shaping suitable clay, creating the mouth hole and sound hole, baking and painting, are needed. The clay whistle can be as small as around 5 centimeters. When a clay whistle is blown, a joyful sound is heard.

Based on the basic technique of making clay whistle, Yao continued to dig into it and bring forth new ideas. Taking subjects as an example, Yao not only makes traditional figures such as 12 Chinese zodiac signs, but has also expanded to human figures and plants.

Under the background of combating the COVID-19, he also created vivid medical workers to show his respect. Tongzi clay whistles he makes have more vibrant colors and styles and are more solid. Yao has also developed a kind of clay whistle with multi-holes, which can produce more rhythm than those with just single hole, winning more fans.

In order to promote this intangible cultural heritage item, Yao always teaches the making process and shows the skill of blowing through live streaming. He also goes to several schools regularly in Tongzi county to instruct students in making clay whistle. Support from both the internet and local students encourage Yao to pass this technique on. Yao believes that letting more people know this heritage is the best way to inherit it.

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