January 11, 2015
After my first week in China I'm starting to get used to the fact that everyone will stare at me while walking on the street. This happen especially in the "small" cities (to me everything looks giant in China), where the foreigners are rare. At the beginning all these Chinese eyes pointed at me made me feel very uncomfortable. Now I just don't care! On the contrary, i feel like a celebrity!
The second part of the trip begins. I left Gabriele on the high-speed train from Fuzhou to Shanghai and got off at Wenzhou. From now on I will be travelling alone, hunting for teaware and pottery!
My first destination is Longquan, the hometown of Celadon pottery, famous for its jade-like greenish glaze. In the history of Chinese porcelain, Longquan kiln centre is one of the porcelain complexes with the oldest history. First stop at the Longquan Celadon Museum, together with Vivian, Steven and Jason, my new local friends! The museum is worth a visit: the exhibition is well organized and understandable, thanks to the English captions and the faithful life-size reproductions of the Celadon process. Items from different ages and styles are displayed along a temporal path. An architectural note: the building is a round, modern construction with a hall resembling a spaceship. It seems to be also the main attraction of the city and I spotted a just-married couple posing in front of the museum. We stole for a moment their super-professional photographer that took a pictures of the four of us together! The day goes on fast with a quick visit to the Celadon shops in the centre, a dinner in one of the many street restaurants and a walk in the night lights on the way back to the hotel.
January 12, 2014
Second day in Longquan. The morning starts with a visit at a giant ceramics factory. Here I meet C.C.Y., co-owner of the company and Steven's friend. If yesterday, at the museum, I admired the replica of the traditional craftsman techniques, today at the factory I have the chance to see all the steps of the modern Celadon production. The production is almost entirely handmade, except for the use of a mould to shape the object. It speeds up the production and reduces the number of mistakes. There are different kind of furnaces, to obtain a wide range of Celadon finishing. The colour of the final item depends on the clay, the type of furnace and the "burning" time.
After the visit we enjoy a Da Hong Pao –Oolong tea from the Wuyi mountain– prepared by the boss of the company and served in elegant Celadon cups! I spend the rest of the morning wandering around the ceramics district, a street just outside the centre full of pottery and swords shops (which seems to be the other famous product of the city). Among hundreds of shops and kitsch stuff, I spot an elegant and outstanding boutique with a workshop in the backyard, the right place to start shopping for nannuoshan: some Celadon cups enriched with a delicate decoration that I haven't seen in any of the other shops.
Now I can finally enjoy a stroll in the old town! The atmosphere is very relaxed here: some musicians play traditional instruments in the park while a group of people dance along the river.
This part of the city seems to be very poor: the houses are old and messy, the streets dirty... but I like it. It's more characteristic, I can feel the history and the "soul" of the city, out of the commercial route. It's like a journey into the past, just a few steps away from the high skyscrapers. And it's just here that I make an encounter that makes my day! I'm sitting in a bench along the river when a man comes to me talking in Chinese. Of course I can't understand a word but I guess he's trying to invite me to his place. I glimpse some pottery through the opened door and decide to follow him. With my big surprise we enter into a tiny Celadon atelier, where every single object is entirely handmade by local artists. I'm amazed by the perfection of every single cup. In preparation of this journey, I attended a ceramic class back in Europe a few months ago and I know how hard is working with the potter's wheel and how much experience is needed to obtain such a perfection! I spend three inspiring hours drinking tea with them! They invite me for dinner and cover me with presents: X.H.J. donates me a book he wrote about Celadon history while N.C. gives me a vase he created with his own hands. The funny thing is that they can't speak English at all, as I can't speak Chinese! I-pad and google translator help ;)
Written by Michela.