China has over four times the population of the USA, but no hunting and relatively few taxidermists. In the past decade, Chinese taxidermists have become very serious about improving their standards. As evidence, you can look at the participation of China at the past few World Taxidermy Championships. In 2013, 19 people made the 10,000-plus mile trip from China to the USA to attend the World Show in Illinois. In 2015, 13 attended the World Show in Missouri.
Just last month, the 3rd bi-annual China Taxidermy Championships was held in Beijing on March 27th through the 31st, and Skip Skidmore of Utah was invited to be one of the five judges. I have known Skip since we first met at the 1985 World Show in Kansas, and we have worked together on at the WTC ever since then. I cannot imagine a more qualified person to be our industry’s ambassador to the far East. Skip was the first Westerner to judge the Chinese competition and he was kind enough to share his experience and some photos with me.
The culture of China is very different from Western society. Hunting was outlawed in 2006, so all of the specimens come from zoos, drive-through game parks, road kills, or other countries. The small taxidermy community is coming into its own as they take their first steps into the international brotherhood of taxidermists.
The competition was also quite different. The judges included a professor of art, two scientists including a paelo-mammalogist, with only Skip and one other judge having any real taxidermy experience. The Competition Chairman was also an Assistant Director at the Beijing Zoo. The judges’ five scores were averaged together. There were no score sheets or critiques offered to the competitors.
Skip is not the only Western taxidermist who has visited China. Kim Kuenzel of Arkansas spent three weeks instructing students in the finer points of bird taxidermy. Kim’s story was highlighted in Breakthrough Magazine Issue 113. Skip noted he could definitely tell the improvement that Kim’s techniques had brought to the bird entries at the competition. The beautiful bird work of her students stood out.
There were over 140 entries at the 2016 China Taxidermy Championships. Each and every mount was judged by all of the judges. Skip started off examining the entries with the diligence that he was accustom to in the USA. After four long hours he was dismayed that he had completed only 25 mounts and still had over a hundred more to judge. When he finally realized that he would not be accountable to the competitors, and there would be no critique or score sheet offered, he shifted into another gear. Skip scored the remaining 115 entries in the next seven hours. Skip’s flashlight revealed many flaws that were not apparent to the non-taxidermy judges on the panel.
Skip enjoyed this unique experience and was glad to see that the quality of taxidermy in the country of China is improving dramatically in this new century.