Monday, August 15, 2005

The Venice of China

On Saturday I was taken by the Houghton managers to Zhu Jia Jiao, a small Venice-like town about one hour away from Shanghai. It was a really cool ancient town... from what I gathered it was many hundreds of years old and the age was apparent in the construction of the buildings and streets. I don't know what the town's original source of income was (probably fishing) but it subsists now entirely off of tourism. Non-locals must pay a fee to even enter the town and there are countless little stores, food vendors, craftsman, tea houses, and restaurants for tourists, both Chinese and Western, to spend their money in.

I acquired my first two articles of Chinese art in Zhu Jia Jiao. The first was a beautiful paper cutting made by a man who won the title of Best Paper Cutter in all of China 1999. I don't really know how else to describe what I bought, but the skill it takes to make this and the detail represented are unbelievable. I am going to put pictures of it up on my webshots site under
the Zhu Jia Jiao album.

The second of my purchases (well sort of) was a glass bottle that was hand painted with a beautiful scene depicting ancient Chinese life. The thing that made it even more interesting was the fact that it is painted from the inside of the bottle, one painstaking dot at a time. I had seen one while we were walking around and asked the price. I was amazed when the vendor told me 80 RMB (about $10) and agreed without even bothering to try and haggle the man lower. My Chinese coworkers thought this price was atrocious and literally dragged me from the store and would not let me buy it. They told me once we got out that if we went back later the man would give us a better price. Now, I am entirely for arguing with vendors to get the price down, but this was a handmade piece of art that took tremendous skill to produce. It is worth far more than the artist was asking and I wanted to pay him at least that much. Well we went the whole day without going back to the store, and as we walked back to the car I noticed that QP Lu was
missing. He showed up at the car a few minutes later, bottle in hand, and presented me with the gift. I insisted that I pay for it but he would not let me. He said he had only paid half price for it. I will also post pictures of this on my webshots site.