How small can woodworking get? Well, it can’t get much smaller than pit carving. The miniature folk practice of pit carving has been done for centuries, can be done in different ways, and includes a variety of subjects.
Peach pit is most commonly seen. The practice of peach pit carving probably originated in China, where the peach is a symbol of longevity. The first record of it dates back nearly one thousand years to the Song dynasty.
The peach pit (also known as peach stone) is composed of two parts: a hard, wood-like material on the outside (putamen), and a nut-like seed on the inside (kernel). The uncarved pit has an irregular, wrinkled surface, resembling a tiny brain. The wood-like putamen is what is carved. The kernel is sometimes removed but is never part of the finished product. The pits range in size from about 3/4 to 1 3/4 inches.
The artistic feature of the carvings is to present complex subject matters such as poems, fishing fun, hundred-flower basket and Buddhist arhats on small pits by meticulous technique.
The perforated pit carving can be a talisman carried along by people. Children in China wear a peach pit suspended about the neck to keep demons away. They are also carved into pendants, fan pendants or strings of beads.
The fruit pit carvings in Suzhou, Yangzhou, Weifang in Shandong and Guangdong Province are famous for their unique characteristics.