This incredible sculpture may be shaped like a football – but it’s actually a teeny tiny intricately carved olive pit! Created by Ch’en Tsu-chang in 1737, the tiny sculpture shows a small roofed boat with eight passengers. On display at the National Palace Museum of China, the historic olive pit is an incredible feat of carving.
The detailed sculpture is an easy to miss 16 millimeters tall and 34 millimeters wide. The natural shape of the pit made it perfect for a master carver to transform into a miniscule boat, curving up at either end. Along the top, Tsu-chang carved a traditional sun shade that was often made from bamboo with grooves that represent individual bamboo rods along the front. The olive pit was then remarkably almost hollowed out to depict the boat interior with incredibly detailed figures inside.
Eight figures ride inside the tiny boat sculpture, each with their own expression. One figure steers the boat at the helm, while others relax and enjoy the ride, looking out at the sea. Ornate doors and windows open to reveal the figures sitting inside, while thin columns provide structural support that hold the nearly-hollow olive pit together.
Even more impressive is the boat’s bottom, which is engraved with the poem “Latter Ode on the Red Cliff,” by Su Shih. The poem tells story about friends going on a serene boat ride, and is also the inspiration for the sculpture. The poem’s 300 characters are engraved on the tiny boat’s underside, making the olive pit not only a sculpture, but also reading material.
Via My Modern Met