The train does not stop for Mr. Phreaky Essays, read up about the latest adventure in China!
The hard sleeper from Xi’an to Wuxi was silent and pleasant, we’ve arrived, dropped our backpacks at the friendly youth hostel and had our first city walk. Wuxi (无锡) is a huge industrial center and people even call it “little Shanghai”.
The name means “Without Tin” (previously was called “Youxi” – “With Tin” till all the tin pits had been exhausted.)
Wuxi is our first city of those, residing on Grand Canal's banks. Chinese Grand Canal (more then 1700km in length) is one of the most impressive hydrotechnical constructions in the world: it connects two famous Chinese rivers such as Huang He (Yellow River) and Yangtze (yeah, those two famous rivers we’ve learned about in school history classes).
We’ve walked over the canal bridge and reached the most melancholic Wuxi parks – Xihui
We were looking for the cable car that would take us to the peak, and
found one only when we’ve climbed, so took a cable car back down :)
When we’ve got back to the hostel it was just the time to think about the journey to
our main destination near Wuxi – the Dingshan pottery city, located in Yixing County. While asking about it and practicing a little Chinese we’ve learned we were faced straight into the local accent that was a bit harder to understand: for example, the “sh” is pronounced as “s” and on Wuxi surroundings’ map you can find both “Dingsan” and “Dingshan” :) Wuxi, by the way, according to official Chinese transcription (Pinyin should be pronounced as “Woossee” (“x” should be read as “s”)
No offense, but for the true tea lovers there is only one tea – Chinese and the only one
region where a proper clay teapots are made: Yixing - 宜兴. The teapots, made of the local clay keep the tea taste for the greater number of infusions and absorb the tea taste day by day, so the legend says that one day even a pure water, poured in the proper teapot will turn into a delightful tea :)
Actually, almost any Chinese clay teapot that you’ll find in any shop around the world
will be pushed to your hands as “Yixing teapot”, which is very wrong: the real Yixing
clay (called zisha ) production is limited by Chinese government and the percentage of the zisha in each teapot clay might vary significantly.
The bus dropped us at the gate to the Ceramics museum discovers the history of zisha
teapots and celadon (another kind of clay and its production technology). The history dates 6000 years back! Yeah, in the region of Yixing it all started nearly 6000 years ago and the descendants of those ancient people still continue to improve their craft techniques through generations.
After the exposition one might want to bring home a teapot or two (better one per kind of tea you like and a small glass teapot for the others). Dingshan is the best place to invest into a proper one. There are two potential sale regions: one is the workshops, adjacent to the museum and the other is the teapots market, reachable by nearly 20 minutes by foot.
The numerous workshops are usually maintained by the real specialists and their
students. Some specialists are very famous and are entitled to be in the official “top
300” and other lists. Their certified teapots definitely worth the invested money and
should one decide to purchase – in some places bargaining is allowed, but with a
complete respect to the masters – it was very hard to bargain for me after
seeng how much work is put in every singe perfect teapot. I’ve took some reportage pics, helping by 400 ISO film and Diana flash.
The teapots’ market occupies a huge territory, where you can easily get lost among
multiple department stores. For us, it was much harder to find the really outstanding
teapots simply because of the time. It took about two hours just to pass through
some of the shops, we’ve bought some cheap tea ware and got back to the workshops to purchase directly from masters’ hands. Among all the teapots one caught my eye from the first sight and was happily transferred into my hands along with the certificate. The master said that Pu-Ehr tea will suit the teapot at
most. Writing this in Yunnan (the province, where the Pu-Ehr tea is produced) and
it’s just the time to start using it – more about various kinds of Chinese tea in future essays :)
P.S.: Guess who made the following pic :)