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Beijing pictures, Inside of a purple clay tea cup

Purple clay from the county of Yixing is considered the best natural material for making tea sets. Their purple clay teapots can abundantly release your tea's aroma and keep it from going tasting bad better than any other material.


On my visit to Chayuan Tea City at the south end of Maliandao Tea Street yesterday afternoon, I found some user-friendly purple clay tea cups in a shop (No. A2-10) named Qingyi, which literally means "Affection" in English.


As I set my eyes upon the tea cups shown on the shelves, a shop assistant started telling me about the twelve Chinese zodiac animal cups originally designed by the shopkeeper, Mr. Chen.


I picked up a chocolate-colored one with a miniature rooster on the cover. When I opened the lid, to my surprise, I found a purple clay interlayer stuck in the middle. Inside stood another miniature rooster. This layer has many small, round holes that allow tea to pass through and keep the leaves at the bottom. So don¡¯t worry about accidently drinking any leaves.


Prices for all of their tea cups range from 20 to 120 yuan. For teapots, the prices vary greatly by quality, from 50 to 16,000 yuan. In addition, you can find a variety of tea ceremony accessories, and some famous Chinese teas too.


Another middle-aged shopkeeper used to be a tour guide, and can speak English.


What I appreciated

Purple clay tea cups originally designed by shop keeper, reasonable prices


What customers appreciate

User-friendly purple clay tea cups, Chinese teas and tea sets

Beijing pictures, Mei Ping

Porcelain comes in various types: celadon, sancai, blue-and-white, to name a few. One of priciest type is called ¡®Yao Bian Ci¡¯ or ¡®transmutation-glaze porcelain¡¯.


JingDeZhen Ceramics, located near the Forbidden City, offers a fine selection of ¡®Yao Bian Ci¡¯. The ¡®Yao Bian¡¯ craftwork, originated from Song Dynasty 800 years ago, involves burning mixture of glaze into silica, lime, or copper ore-rich glasses at high temperatures. After the spontaneous and irregular changing process, it is impossible to have two vessels with the same color.


At the shop I saw many ¡®Yao Bian Ci¡¯ vases, jars for home and office decoration. One is a globular, red-purple splashed vase. The splash looks like a waterfall. There are only two vases of this kind. One is in the Great Hall of the People, and the other at the shop. It is the most expensive vase inside, with a RMB 400, 000 price tag.


I also found a variety of goblets in the shop. The amazing thing about the goblet is that when it is filled with wine, an image of beautiful lady would appear at the bottom. It sells for around RMB 100.


The owner, Mr. Yu, speaks a little English. Communication is not a problem.



What customers appreciate

Unique products


What I appreciate

Unique products


The ancient land of Himalaya captures the souls of many who have ever or never been there. So  I was thrilled to find a shop in Beijing offering handicrafts from that mystical region.


BaZha Tribe in the Drum Tower area carries a wide variety of daily products from Nepal, Pakistan, India, Tibet, and even Russia. Although everyday items there, these are rarely found elsewhere in the world.


Ms. Ma, the owner, was a former tourism editor. She introduced me to a collection of Pakistani products: a peach-wood fruit tray, boat-shape bowl with a complex floral design, and a candleholder that looks like a grape vine. Prices range from RMB 250 to RMB 1500.


Personally, I liked the Nepalese woolen scarves and shawls. Handmade in a small town near Nepal¡¯s capital Katmandu, they are colorful, soft, and decorated with intricate motifs. Each sells around RMB 300. They are also the best seller at BaZha Tribe.


Products from Tibet include necklaces, rings, bracelets, prayer wheels, and Tangkas. Prices vary a lot, from RMB 30 to RMB 2000.


Ms. Ma speaks fluent English and French, and often travels to Himalaya region. She¡¯d love to tell you a story or two about the region.



What I appreciate

Nepal shawls and scarves


What customers appreciate

Beautiful products, quality service

Beijing pictures, Opera Figure

Paper-cutting, an ancient form of art that uses scissors and paper to cut into all kinds of themes,  has been around since ancient times.


Zi Yi Xuan, a Paper-cutting shop next to the Forbidden City, offers a large selection of paper-cutting works in the center of Beijing. They make paper cuttings of all sorts of themes, including shadow puppets, peacocks, playing children, opera figures, and court ladies.


Mr. Li, the owner, said one of the most popular items is the set of 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, believed to bring happiness and success to their owner. The works look lively, and the animals seem to pop out from the paper. The set sells around RMB 900.


I also picked up a colorful fish paper-cutting commonly seen during the Chinese spring festivals. People use them to adorn their doors and windows during Spring Festival. The fish express their wishes for more wealth. It sells only for RMB 25.


Other popular themes include historical tales, auspicious animals, and daily life scenes. I even found some Fuwa mascots for the Olympics.


Mr. Li speaks a little English. Communication should not be a problem.



What I appreciate

Beautiful works

What customers appreciate

Beautiful works and quality service


Jun ware is a type of celadon, with a strange blue and white color due to its unique makeup. Those who wish to obtain some of the best Jun ware in Beijing can find a nice shop conveniently located near the Forbidden City. It is called Yan Bao Tang.


This shop offers a selection of Jun porcelain made straight from the origin, Yu County in Henan. There, the Jun ware were made using an ancient kiln excavated 3 decades ago.


I had a chat with Mr. Wang, the shop owner and noted connoisseur. He told me he was fascinated by Jun porcelain and the process - Furnace Transmutation. This technique could make shimmering chinaware by the irregular application of glaze.


In the shop, I saw a mountain-themed plate. But after the Furnace Transmutation process, a Santa image popped up unexpectedly. This is the magic of Furnace Transmutation. Before the process finished, you¡¯d never know what you are going to get. This particular plate costs around RMB 2,500.

Though most of the products copy traditional designs, there are some modern patterns. Two bottle vases with bronze lace and flames are actually designed by Mr. Han Meilin, who created Beijing¡¯s Olympic mascots. Each vase sells for around RMB 3,000.


What I appreciate

Beautiful vessels


What customers appreciate

Beautiful products, good service


What a pity it is if a tea lover doesn't have a good purple clay teapot! For this teapot accentuate and preserve the aroma of your tea, bringing out its full taste. It does this through tiny, invisible pores which allow air to freely flow, and for the flavor to sink in. The longer a purple clay teapot is used, the sleeker and brighter it looks.


Yesterday, on the fifth floor of Bairong World Trade Centre, I found a nice place carrying both purple clay and porcelain tea sets. The purple clay tea pots on a shelf come in brown, chocolate, and green hues. Most of them are sold for RMB 50 to 300. Higher end pots were made by masters with their personal certificate.


Other purple clay products include cups in various sizes and small animal decorations.


They also carry a wide variety of porcelain tea sets. Although not as good as purple clay when it comes to tea-making, these tea sets do look more exquisite for decoration purposes. Most come in gift boxes. The most appealing one to me was a box containing a pot and four tea bowls. Combining both purple clay and porcelain, they also have an antique feel with various cracks. Don¡¯t worry. These cracks are made by design and won¡¯t break. Each set costs about RMB 45.


The shop owners have much experience with foreign customers, so communication is not a problem.


What I appreciated

Purple clay and porcelain tea sets, reasonable prices


What customers appreciate

Elaborate tea sets, many designs for selection

Beijing pictures, "Fengwei Yunnan" Local Products Shop

As a province with many ethnic minorities, Yunnan specialties have distinctly ethnic characteristics. And I had a look at many of them yesterday afternoon, when I found a small Yunan specialties shop inside the East Third Ring.


Cloth hand bags hanging on the walls greeted me as I walked inside. I took a close look, and saw that they were handmade by Yunnan locals. Further inside there were goods on shelves classified into different sections: liquors and fruit juices, Pu¡¯er tea, ethnic foodstuff, etc.


What impressed me most about Yunnan liquor was the packaging. The liquor came in a bamboo tube, and a 500g bottle sold for 55 yuan. Another kind was purple rice liquor came in a thinner bamboo tube. A 250g bottle cost 28 yuan. Even after one finishes the drink, the bamboo tube can still serve as a decoration.


The Pu¡¯er teas there were shaped into cakes and bricks. Among them, a tea brick appealing to me was called ¡®Cultural Revolution Brick¡¯ (250 g, 110 yuan). The picture on the white wrapping paper depicts the red guards of that period (1966 - 1976). Also on sale were fermented and unfermented tea cakes.


Dried rice noodle was a popular item in the shop, used for making the famous ¡®Cross-bridge Rice Noodles¡¯. Other foods included wild edible mushroom, natural lucid ganoderma, and preserved vegetables. All of them were inexpensive.


What I appreciated

Various local products from Yunnan, inexpensive prices


What customers appreciate

Yunnan specialties, catering to common people

Beijing pictures, Yunnan Products Shop

At the southwest corner of Hou Hai, a popular tourist area, lies a small shop, carrying the local products from southwest China¡¯s Yunnan province. The façade of the shop is reminiscent of Old Beijing, with grey bricks and a yellow signboard hanging above the door.


As soon as I got into the shop, I noticed some Pu¡¯er tea shaped into round flat cake. It¡¯s called Bing Cha, or cake tea. The brands are all some of the best, such as Da Yi and Long Sheng. Prices for these healthful tea range from 68 yuan to 268 yuan each. Also on display are gift boxes of Pu¡¯er tea, which is a popular gift item.


Before there was instant ramen, there was "Cross-bridge Rice Noodles", a famous dish in Yunnan, where all the ingredients are mixed into the noodle soup right before it's served. The shop sells the rice noodles used for this dish at 6.5 yuan per 500 g.


Another thing that caught my eye was the Bamboo Tube Liquor. The particular liquor had a beautiful bamboo tube packaging, and cost 48 yuan for the 1 liter bottle.


Other goods on sale included local snacks like roast beef and preserved vegetables.


What I appreciated

Characteristic Yunnan specialties


What customers appreciate

Yunnan local products, local features

Beijing pictures, Taiwang's Best Tea: Oolong tea

As a tea lover, I dream of tasting all kinds of good teas from all over the world. If you're like me, then make sure to visit the famous Maliandao Tea Street, the largest collection of tea vendors in northern China.

A few days ago, on the basement floor of Beijing International Tea Centre, I found a franchise selling quality Taiwan tea. The shop is called "Taiwan Best Tea". 

The tea comes from four major tea plantations in Taiwan's Grand Ali Mountain Tea Planting Area. These mountains over 7,000 feet above sea-level, and covered by clouds and mists. The name "Taiwan High Mountain Tea¡¯ really describes the teas in the area. The entire process of gathering leave is by hand, 100% natural.  

Taiwan High Mountain Tea belongs to the Oolong tea group, which is somewhere between green tea and black tea. The soup is emerald green, tastes aromatic, and has a long, subtle sweet after-taste. If you sip carefully, you should feel carefree and happy. 

Each tea package contains two 150g bags. Prices vary from RMB 880 for "top-quality 888", RMB 680 for the "special grade 878", and RMB 480 for "preferred 868". Gift boxes are available upon request. 

What I appreciated
Taiwan High Mountain Tea, high quality guaranteed 

What customers appreciate
Credible top quality tea from Taiwan

Beijing pictures, Paper-tearing works of 12 Chinese birth-years

On my visit to Baigong Handicrafts Museum recently, I discovered a paper-tearing shop on the second floor, which made me gasp in admiration for the dexterous hands of paper-tearing masters.


Paper-tearing, originated more than 1,500 years ago, is a branch of the paper-cutting art. Compared with regular paper-cutting, this art looks more original and more improvised, reminiscent of the Chinese traditional brush painting. A paper-tearing artisan tears the paper into an imagined design following his inclinations.


The shop owner, an elderly woman, is a master of this art. She told me she has been in love with paper-tearing since her childhood days. Today she is very renowned, and frequently asked to make head portraits for international celebrities. With the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, she even made paper-tearing portraits for Jacques Rogge and Juan Antonio Samaranch, current and former Chairmen of the International Olympic Committee.


Among the works on display, I saw many familiar figures. Chairman Mao¡¯s portrait was one of many historical figures made. I also saw works depicting ladies in the classic Chinese literature, Dream of the Red Mansion. In addition, you can find different paper-tears of each of the 12 traditional Chinese birth-animals. All above paper-tears cost RMB 40 each.


What I appreciated

Delicate paper-tearing works, skillful workmanship


What customers appreciate

Traditional Chinese handicraft, outstanding artisanship

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Beijing Shopping: Purple clay from the county of Yixing is considered the best natural material for making tea sets. Their purple clay teapots can abundantly release your tea's aroma and keep it from going tasting bad ...