Guo, 30, began learning taxidermy about a decade ago from his father, a veteran of the field with more than three decades of experience. There are about 100 taxidermists in China, most of them in their 40s, according to Guo.
Guo says that he has learned how to stuff a large range of animals, from small pets such as turtles and cats to bigger animals like horses and lions.
For a small pet, it takes about two weeks to complete the taxidermy process, which includes skinning, preserving, shaping, stuffing and sewing.
"The pets are family members to these people, so what we do is help the clients preserve their past memories," said Guo.
Fees for small pets range from 1,000 ($158) to 2,000 yuan, while a large dog can cost up to 10,000 yuan.
"Most of my clients are elderly couples. They treat their dogs and cats so dearly that they don't mind spending the money to keep them," he said.
In some extreme cases, he noted that some pet owners even held funerals and invited friends and relatives to mourn their dead pets.
Guo's clients aren't limited to the Beijing area. Other clients in first and second-tier cities around China have shipped their dead pets through refrigerated delivery companies to Guo, who noted that sometimes local delivery companies aren't willing to do so.
Despite its growing popularity in China, many people question whether this practice can be considered cruel. After one of Guo's taxidermy dogs appeared on a television program, Guo faced a backlash and pointed criticism from pet lovers.
Some even called Guo's home, while some netizens left angry comments, "You guys killed a dog to make a specimen for the Year of Dog (2018); will you butcher a dragon for the Year of Dragon?"
"They believe we are stuffing live pets, which is not the case. They're ignorant, so their negative comments don't bother me," said Guo.
In addition to common house pets, Guo has also worked on large animals imported from Africa. Guo explained that most of these specimens were used for films, TV series and museum exhibitions.
"Africa has vast animal resources. I've cooperated with a factory in South Africa where they stuff animals that have died from natural causes and export them to China. The whole process takes half a year," he said, adding that stuffing a larger animal can cost over 100,000 yuan.
Guo Sheng works on a rabbit specimen in his studio in Beijing. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Guo prepares his taxidermy equipment. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Guo brushes the fur on a completed specimen. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Guo poses with some African specimens. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Guo shows his plans for stuffing a small pet. Photo: Li Hao/GT
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