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TAIPEI (Reuters) - A Taiwanese man has tamed the tiger, shrinking the Chinese zodiac animal into a sculpture smaller than a grain of rice that's fully visible only through a magnifying glass.
Chen Forng-shean, who has been sculpting as a hobby for some 30 years, carved from resin what he calls the world's tiniest tiger at 1 millimetre (0.04 inch) high and just over a millimetre long ahead of the Chinese lunar Year of the Tiger which starts on February 14.
But Chen said the brightly coloured beast nearly got the best of him over 10 attempts to create it.
"If the hands shake a little bit, the work would jump away and disappear," said Chen, 54, a minting plate designer by trade. "For this tiger, the toughest part is because it is three-dimensional. It can be looked at from any angle and still seem very lively.
"Colouring is also very hard, with the patterns on his back and the red colour on his tongue," he said.
The single animal, created after three months of intensive labour, was finished in November and Chen said it was worth T$3 million ($94,200), although it is not for sale.
Tigers, which rotate with 11 other animals on the Chinese lunar year zodiac, bring variable luck, being dependable and unpredictable at the same time. Chen said he has already felt the suspense the new year is likely to bring.
"My job is dealing with very fine things, so I learned to breathe and hold my breath," he said. "Now when I take a breath, I can hold it for 60 seconds, and then I can engrave every stroke with the rhythm of my pulse."
Chen has used rice, sand, thread, dental floss and ant heads and fly wings to do other miniature sculptures, which are a hallmark of high-end ancient Chinese art.
He expects to carve for five more years, producing even smaller sculptures and including scenes that encase mountains, waterfalls, and people.
Reporting by Christine Lu and Ben Tai; writing by Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy