A set of photos depicting the legendary beings and fantasy worlds described in the Book of Mountains and Seas, a classic compendium of Chinese mythology, have been circulating online recently.
The pictures, which have captured the imagination of many fans, were created by Chen Xin, a 24-year-old photographer from Chengdu, Sichuan province.
In her pictures, creatures and characters－such as a mermaid who cried pearl tears, a butterfly that weighs more than 80 kilograms, a fish with a bird's head and a white deer with four antlers that only appears during floods－all come alive in the form of fairy spirits.
The classic tome, which present-day scholars believe was written by multiple authors during different ages, roughly during mid-and late Warring States Period (476-221 BC) and early Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220), mostly contains geographical knowledge of ancient China, passed down through folklore. It not only includes many well-known ancient legends and fables, but vividly describes numerous exotic mythical beasts.
"I have heard my family's elders, including my grandmother, recount the legends and tell these kind of stories all the time. They always caught my attention," recalls Chen, adding that the idea to develop a series of photographs based on the theme came naturally.
She began the project in July last year and carefully studied each of the mythical animals' descriptions in the book, before drafting her ideas and composing the picture before starting the work.
She started with the mythical animal, Chenghuang, which is described as "fox-like", but has horns on its back. She made a fox's tail with material she bought online and used 3D printing to create the horns, while the model's skin was painted white to resemble the color of the creature's fur as described in the book.
Chen went to painstaking levels of detail to ensure her subjects appeared vivid and lifelike. For instance, to make the outfit for a phoenix, she bought 7,000 differently colored peacock feathers at a price of 1 yuan for each pair.
"I'll try whatever it takes to achieve the ideal effect, as long as I can cover the costs and dedicate the time," explains Chen, who also spent a great deal of time editing the photos on her computer to achieve her vision.
So far, Chen has finished 18 sets of photos at a cost of more than 80,000 yuan (,500), with the longest picture taking an entire month to complete.
She and her team traveled to various locations around the country to find the ideal backdrops－from deserts to mountains and snowfields. According to Chen, there were often uncontrollable conditions, such as weather and the environment, during the process of shooting, so the team needed to adjust accordingly.