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Hyperrealistic Wool Replicas of Deceased Pets: Artistry by Yuan Jiaojiao in China’s Thriving Pet Industry

CultureArtHyperrealistic Wool Replicas of Deceased Pets: Artistry by Yuan Jiaojiao in China's Thriving Pet Industry

Talented Chinese Artisan Creates Hyperrealistic Wool Replicas of Deceased Pets, Garnering Praise and Mistaken Identity

In an astonishing display of craftsmanship, a Chinese woman’s remarkable needle-felting creations have captivated social media users across the mainland. Yuan Jiaojiao, a 35-year-old resident of Jiangsu province in eastern China, has dedicated herself to the art of transforming wool into lifelike 3D figures using a barbed needle—a technique known as needle felting. Over the past three years, Yuan has honed her skills, leaving her audience astounded and often fooled by the authenticity of her replicas.

On her Xiaohongshu account, which boasts an impressive following of over 11,000, Yuan consistently baffles admirers who mistake her woolen creations for living creatures. Her repertoire primarily consists of meticulously crafted reproductions of beloved pets that have passed away, with each lifelike masterpiece brought to life using reference photographs of the deceased animals.

Yuan’s talent has not gone unnoticed, as she recently recounted a touching experience where she received a special request from the overseas children of an elderly couple who had lost their cherished pet. Determined to provide a “replacement” companion for their parents, the children turned to Yuan for a lifelike replica. Motivated by her love for her own feline companion, Yuan initially delved into wool felting as a hobby in 2019. Inspired by videos of fellow artists overseas resurrecting deceased pets through their craft, she decided to specialize in creating replica pets.

Despite lacking a formal arts background, Yuan diligently attended classes to refine her skills. Devoting extraordinary attention to detail in her restorations, she explained that she can only produce two or three replicas per month, each measuring between 22 and 25 centimeters in height. The price of her creations varies, ranging from 8,000 yuan (US$1,125) to tens of thousands of yuan, depending on the complexity and intricacy of each individual order.

In a recent interview with China Central Television (CCTV) on June 1, Yuan revealed that the majority of her orders originate from pet owners residing in major cities in China and abroad. Such is the popularity and demand for her work that Yuan’s order book is fully booked until October 2026.

Yuan’s endeavors are part of a larger trend within the thriving pet industry in China. According to the 2021 China Pet Industry Whitepaper, conducted by research company Pethadoop under the supervision of the China Pet Industry Association, the country boasted 68.44 million pet owners in 2021—an increase of 8.7 percent compared to the previous year and 21 percent since 2018. Moreover, the pet market in China soared to an impressive worth of 249 billion yuan (US$35 billion) in 2021, representing a growth of nearly 21 percent from the previous year.

The report further highlighted that Chinese pet owners predominantly hail from younger generations with higher education and income, demonstrating a willingness to invest more in their furry companions. This growing affection for pets has spurred the development of various related businesses, including pet boarding, pet birthday parties and weddings, as well as specialized pet dieting services. For instance, an esteemed pet fitness center in Zhejiang province reportedly charges 4,000 to 6,000 yuan (US$840) per month for one-on-one training and tailored dietary plans aimed at assisting overweight dogs in losing weight.

Another survey conducted by iMedia Research identified the declining marriage rate and aging population in China as contributing factors to the expansion of the pet industry. In 2018, the Chinese government reported a staggering 240 million single individuals in the country, with 77 million living alone. The

elderly population, aged 60 and above, accounted for 18.9 percent of the total population in 2021. The research postulated that single and elderly individuals seek emotional connections through their pets, often resulting in a greater willingness to allocate financial resources toward their well-being.

While many online observers marveled at Yuan’s uncanny replicas, one individual aptly remarked, “Our pets usually leave us before we depart from this world. These pet replicas serve as eternal mementos of our cherished companions.”


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