China Taxidermy Championships

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.

These two competitors brought a Mandrill monkey plastinization specimen. Skip was impressed with the procedure.

Walking into the competition area, the first thing that struck Skip were the number of horses. Six or seven lifesize horses were entered.

Tian Ma’s running Steppe wolf in pursuit of a black-tailed gazelle was a standout entry. Tian Ma also competed at the 2015 World Show in Missouri.

The running black-tailed gazelle was mounted on an altered Thompson’s gazelle form by Tian Ma.

This Tibeten steppe wolf was created from an American running coyote mannikin.

The mounts ranged from the sublime to the fanciful, like this deer with flowers sprouting out of its antlers.

The Mandrill monkey plastinization entry had a smooth and plastic waxy feel. This is the same technology as used in the traveling Bodies exhibit.

A hollow log made for an cute display of a family of muskrats.

Some entries featured diorama displays, like these red-crowned cranes in a courting ritual.

This skua and spoonbills scene showed the influence of American taxidermy instructor Kimberly Kuenzel.

Many horses in the competition featured great general anatomy but were lacking in detail work.

Skip loved the repeating patterns in this pair of Demoiselle cranes.

Skip’s favorite bird group was this pair of Pied wagtails, a protected species.

The first place bird award went to this red-billed blue magpie.

Skip especially was impressed with this Lady Amherst’s pheasant, which was done by one of Kim Kuenzel’s students.

A close up of the Lady Amherst’s pheasant reveals the nice wattle work and fleshy eyelids, not shriveled or shrunken.

This tiger recreation was made entirely from glueing deer hair a piece at a time. Skip was boggled when he couldn’t find any seams and it looked and felt natural.

Skip Skidmore’s hotel was in the heart of Beijing, only a mile or so from the Olympic park. Skip got a chance to walk through the massive Olympic plaza at night and see the famous Bird’s Nest stadium which features a colorful light show.

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.

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