We landed in Xiamen and made our way to Cherry’s hometown, some two hours further by car. Traveling more than an hour beyond, we arrived at a carving studio specializing in Han Bai Yu stone - white jade.
Han Bai Yu could be considered the Chinese equivalent of Makrana marble from India, except the two are really different. Makrana is opaque, like milk. Han Bai Yu is translucent, like ice. Yet both are at the mercy of the carvers whose job is to find life in the inanimate.
The carvers at the studio were conspicuously absent. All had returned to their villages for the Chinese New Year. But the statues remained in various states of completion. I have never seen such extraordinary, detailed carving anywhere in the world. The statues seemed to come alive. Their presence was undeniable. I became lost in their expressions, which appeared to change instead of being locked in stone. “It feels like they want to talk,” I said to Cherry at one point. “Anything is possible,” she replied. “It’s China.”