If no one told you, then you’d probably never guess that this intricate sculpture was carved from the pit of an olive. Chinese artist Ch’en Tsu-chang crafted it in 1737, and this miniature artwork stands at only 16 millimeters tall and 34 millimeters wide. It follows the shape of the pit and depicts a small boat with eight figures, each of which has its own expression and action. There are masterfully-carved details on the doors and inside of the vessel that are unexpected from a work this size, and it’s awe-inspiring to see just how well Tsu-chang had honed his craft.
According to the National Palace Museum of China, Tsu-chang’s handiwork is based on the poet Su Shih’s Latter Ode on the Red Cliff. It describes how the author enjoyed a boat ride with his friends under the moonlight sky. The artist paid homage to this inspirational source by engraving the poem on the bottom of the boat. This amazing addition was no small feat- the poem is more than 300 characters long and occupies nearly all of its tiny underside.