A Cultural Exploration into Anhui: Huizhou Craftsmen Ink Stick

One of China’s “four treasures of study”, the traditional handicraft of ink-stick survives today. The Huizhou ink-stick, produced in ancient Huizhou, Anhui Province, is the best of its kind, for being lustrous, moist, deeply black, strongly fragrant, mothproof and mould-proof. Hui ink-stick has a history of over 1000 years, and has been a favorite for calligraphers and painters ever since Tang Dynasty.

China culture tour

Today local people inherit Huizhou cultural legacy and traditions, as well as the Hui ink-stick manufacturing processes. She country, Jixi Country and Tunxi District in Huangshan City becomes the three production centers for Hui ink-stick.

China Anhui tour 

Founded in 1782, Hu Kaiwen Ink-stick factory is the oldest surviving operating ink stick factory in China and has been well-known at home and abroad. If you can pay a visit to the Hu Kaiwen Ink-stick factory, you’ll find the original factory buildings of brick houses still exist, but dirty and dyed by ink, and be shown the process how the Huizhou ink-stick is made. Of course, several of the processes are highly guarded secrets.

Like many other traditional crafts industry, Huizhou ink industry also has to be reconstructed and continue to innovate. Hu Kaiwen Ink-stick factory selects the best ingredients including a dozen Chinese herbal medicines and has created many new ink stick productions, which led to many international prizes and are of great artistic value and collection value.

Huizhou ink stick, especially Hu Kaiwen ink stick, has been a refined handicraft article in China, and a national intangible cultural heritage.

China cultural exploration 

Book with Easy Tour China for an inspection tour to the ink stick factory in Huangshan City:

4-day Yellow Mountain Hiking Tour with an Ink Stick Factory Visit

11-day China In-depth Culture Tour by High Speed Trains 

Best Things to Explore in Suzhou: Top 10 Classical Gardens

Outgrowing its original function dedicated to providing a tranquil and meditative atmosphere for ancient Taoist poets, classical Chinese gardens later were much favored by rich families and designed as their private gardens in the Song and Ming dynasties.

There are nearly a hundred classical gardens in Suzhou – a heavenly city on earth. Ten of them are known among the best in China, and form a big draw for travelers and expats in Suzhou.

#1 Humble Administrator’s Garden

The biggest one in Suzhou, and queen of classical Chinese gardens, it is the prototype of Daguan Garden of “A Dream in Red Mansions”, one of the four great novels in ancient China. Here visitors can also watch the graceful Kun Opera.

Suzhou Classical garden

#2 Lingering Garden

One of China’s four classical gardens (along with Humble Administrator’s Garden, Summer Palace and Chengde Mountain Resort), Lingering Garden features 700-meter-long undulating corridors that connect the archways, pavilions, ponds and artificial hills.

top Chinese classical gardens

#3 Lion Grove

Built in 14th Century, Lion Grove is quite small but shows subtle sophistication in the layout.

Suzhou highlights tour

#4 Garden of Net Master

Another representative works of classical Chinese gardens, Garden of Net Master was built in 1174, and was home to many ancient scholars and litterateurs.

Suzhou classical garden tours

#5 Canglang Pavilion

The oldest classical garden in Suzhou, it was built in 1044 during North Song Dynasty.

 

#6 Couple’s Retreat Garden

The special yellowstone rockery, classical courtyards, small and exquisite pavilions, long winding corridors, and ponds with bridges constitute harmonious and varied scenes.

cultural heritage sites in Suzhou

#7 Tiger Hill

Surrounded by pretty natural scenery, Tiger Hill attracts people by grand old trees and the century-old Tiger Hill Pagoda.

#8 Tuisi Garden

Water is the theme of Tuisi Garden in Tongli Ancient Town, suburb of Suzhou. An outstanding red marble boat leans against the water.

Classical Suzhou Tour

#9 Meditation Garden

3km west of Tongli, Suzhou, Meditation Garden stands out for the stunning Lingbi stones displayed in the Rare Stone Museum.

Suzhou culture tour

#10 Hanshan Temple

It is a Buddhist garden and houses dozens of Qing Dynasty architectures and beautiful Buddhist statues.

 Suzhou cultural heritages

China Ancient Village Image Gallery: the Tile-roofed Houses

An important part of traditional Chinese dwellings, the tile-roofed houses was everywhere in old China, and now can still be seen in the ancient villages.

China old village vacation

The tiles can be black, red, green, blue or yellow, and create a simple and unsophisticated atmosphere or a grandiose imposing manner.

tour to China

The tile roof was first used on the distinguished temples and palaces, with the expensive, ornate glazed tiles. They haven’t been widely used by ordinary people until Song and Yuan Dynasty (960-1368). Later in Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), the tile-roof architecture reached its heyday.

China culture tour

The traditional tile-roofed dwellings are well-lit, well-ventilated, and antiseptic. They usually have a beautiful outline, with the roof being embossed with designs of various flowers, insects, birds and animals. The zoomorphism decorates, according to traditional Chinese culture, imply good luck and perfect peace.

China tours for ancient Chinese architecture

The Forbidden City is the symbol of imperial power.

China tours for historical sights

Tour to China

The oddly-shaped tulou building in Fujian

Piangyao’s Ming-Qing Street is lined with the most traditional vernacular dwellings in northern China

China Tours to Pingyao

The elegant Huizhou architectures are endowed with black tiles and white walls.

China tours to Huangshan

Jiangnan’s (East China) ancient water towns are dreamlike worlds – will you lose track of time?

Tea Time at Laoshe Teahouse: Experiencing Unique Beijing Culture

Laoshe Teahouse was built in 1988 by Mr. Shengxi Yin, to commemorate Mr. Laoshe, one of the representatives of traditional Beijing Culture, and his magnum opus Tea House. Ever since its opening, the tea house has been a desirable place for both tea lovers and Chinese culture vultures.

Location: No. 3, the west street of Qianmen, Xicheng District Beijing 

best Beijing Tea house

Of over 500 tea houses in Beijing, Laoshe Teahouse stands out not only for the association with cultural celebrities, but also for its origin from stall tea or Dawancha (Big Bowl Tea). Inspired by the play of Tea House, Laoshe Teahouse attaches much importance to the Beijing local culture traditions and lifestyle, apart from ancient tea culture.

Take our Tea Culture Tours to disover China in depth with the begin of a singe cup of tea

Beijing tea culture 

Constant change has made Beijing a brand-new metropolis, though, the ancient capital has much more to offer beyond the gaudily ornate buildings.  

Laoshe Teahouse is one of the most well-known ‘trendy’ areas of Beijing and incredibly cool. From food to fun, from waiter’s dialect to architectural design, everything creates a Beijing-style cultural ambience. The three-floor building is of typical Beijing courtyard design, and involves traditional art and modern comforts. Travelers may find it to be a folklore museum by seeing its elegant old-fashioned tables and chairs, palace lanterns, painting &calligraphy works and couplets hung on the walls, as well as the memorable sculptures and pictures. It’s worth mentioning that Laoshe Teahouse has received 47 heads of state such as former U.S. President George W. Bush, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Beijing culture tour

The performing artists of Laoshe Teahouse keep the traditional Beijing art alive 

Difference tea ceremony performances, including oolong tea ceremony, farm tea ceremony, and jasmine tea ceremony are available in Laoshe Teahouse. Here you can also taste various traditional foods and snacks of Beijing or Shanxi or Shandong flavor.

Chinese tea ceremony

Most travelers to Laoshe Teahouse are most impressed by the various forms of traditional performances: Peking Opera, Chinese shadow puppetry, dramas, plays, ancient music, ancient dancing, comic dialogue (cross talk), acrobatics, oral stunts, Chinese Kung Fu, face changing of Sichuan Opera, etc. With a different culture background and difference languages, international travelers may not fully understand the stories or what performers try to express, but most people are able to feel the charm of traditional Beijing art and also take a deep look into Chinese culture.

You know what, many traditions and traditional artistic forms in China are disappearing or are in danger of disappearing. So the performing artists in Laoshe Teahouse are trying their best to keep the traditions and arts alive.

Beijing Opera at tea house Chinese tea house performance

Experiencing Dong Culture at Zhaoxing’s Grain Rain Festival

With over 1000 different festivals celebrated by 48 different minority groups in one year, Guizhou is one of the two provinces in China (the other one is Yunnan Province with 51 minority groups) that offer best minority culture experience.

Minority culture tour to China

Soon on April 19 (the 13th day of the third lunar calendar month), Dong people in the thousand-year-old Zhaoxing Dong Village will celebrate the Grain Rain Festival (the 6th solar term of Chinese 24 solar terms), with various fun-filled activities and unique cultural experiences for Dong people’s agricultural civilization and very old traditions.

Tour to Zhaoxing Dong Village Guizhou

One of the most beautiful ancient villages in China, Zhaoxing Dong Village retains the traditional layout and architectures. The villagers have been living a simple humble life and devoting themselves to preserving the Dong culture and customs, such as the ‘Kam Grand Choirs’ which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site in 2006.

Tour to Zhaoxing, Guizhou

Trip to Zhaoxing, Liping, Guizhou

To celebrate the Grain Rain Festival, traditionally Dong people will ‘eat black rice and sow the rice seed’, so as to mark the beginning of busy farming season, show respect to the hard-working cattle, and give an important and special gift to the sweetheart. The ‘black rice’ is made from sticky rice with the leaf juice of Vaccinium bracteatum Thunb. It is usually considered as a love token according to the traditional Dong marriage customs.

Guizhou specialty food

Guizhou speicalty food

Therefore Grain Rain Festival is also a big day for unmarried men and women. Young men will throw bamboo baskets with presents into young women’s houses for ‘black rice’, meat and wine. Then the man will sing a folk song to get back the basket, yet remain wary of the girl’s sneak attack by applying soot with oil on the man’s face, named ‘Da Hua Lian’. Finally people of all ages including both the locals and travelers join in the ‘Da Hua Lian’. It turns to be a Carnival Night!

Guizhou minority groups tours

Dong festivals

>> If you are planning a minority culture tour to Guizhou and want to take part in Zhaoxing’s Grain Rain Festival on April 19, 2016, please contact us for more details.

An Honorable Silversmith in Guizhou’s Miao Village

Kongbai Miao Village (控拜苗寨) is a famous and the only silversmith village in Guizhou, with a maximum of 275 silversmiths in its heyday, but now the it keeps only a single silversmith, named Long Taiyang, born in 1975.

Most of the villagers have been to the big cities and become part of China’s migrant workers, as it brings them more money. However, Long Taiyang stays. He learns and inherits the traditional techniques of making silver ornaments left by forefather.

China Ethnic Culture Tours to Guizhou

Tour to Guizhou China

“I’m also able to make fortune in the village, by farming and making silver ornaments. Besides, I can take good care of my family, including my elderly parents.” Says Long Taiyang.

China Ethnic Culture tours

Trip to Guizhou China

Traditionally, wearing silver accessory was thought by Miao people to be able to ward off evil spirits and prevent plague.

China Miao culture tour

Miao people’s silver ornaments are made by hand in the family workshops, with unique grains and complicated designs that modern machine can’t not copy. An elaborate set of silver accessory requires the silversmith’s experience, technology and superb skill.

China minority cultures tours

The silver is usually kept in thin strips, and melt and made into slices or silver wires before being created into various patterns and structures.

 

Long Taiyang keeps this beautiful tradition of Miao still alive. Here are some of his works.

How Do the Clay Sculpture Artisans work in China?

With around 3500 years of history, China’s ancient capital of Xian boasts a wealth of historical temples and monasteries that are the places to worship, pray and meditate.

Located in Chang’an District, Longhua Temple and the neighboring 13 Provinces’ God Temple have seen few prayers since late October, as they are having their old, dilapidated buildings renovated. A handful of skilled artisans coming all the way from Gansu to craft and restore the clay Buddha sculptures.

Recommended China Religious Tours

Buddha sculpture in China

To create a clay Buddha sculpture, the artisans should first set the model – draw on the paper, magnify the picture to the wall, accordingly make a wood model fixed by iron wires and covered by straw, then model in clay.

Generally, it takes a year or two to complete a clay statue of Buddha.

“A clay sculpture artisan has to be very patient, hardworking, and master a variety of skills including painting, calligraphy, rendering, carving, wood-carving, etc.,” says Yulong Jia of 53 years old, the leader of the group.

“It usually takes more than ten years for a trainee to become a real master.”

China Buddhism tour

For the past 30 years, Jia has travelled to many parts of China, and crafted tens of thousands of clay sculptures, including Buddha statues, statues of Tao and modem sculptures.

China Relious tour

“Clay sculpture is an artistic form of traditional Chinese craft, and part of traditional Chinese culture, and will be legacy for future generations,” says Hongwen Shi, abbot of Longhua Temple.

Buddhist tour to China