Monday, May 21, 2012

Cloisonné Factory, Summer Palace, Acrobats


I realized (OK, Corey scolded me), that not only did I not finish the Beijing trip, I did not even finish Day 1!

I was not kidding when I said you pack as MUCH into the days as you can when there is a good possibility one of the parties will not be back there.

After the Great Wall (did I mention it was GREAT?)!…I asked Doyle if there was a little “shopper-tunity” in the area.  He came through in a big way.

We made our way to a Cloisonné factory this was a cool stop, and YES, it is licensed and controlled by the Chinese Government, and YES, Doyle does get something at the end of the season for the people he brings there and who buy…but I did not mind that since I asked to go…and he did not push it.

This is an amazing process.  We were met by a lovely young lady who stepped us though the process.  Sadly, it seems to be a dying art because finding craftsmen (and women) is becoming more and more difficult.  I will do a quick step through the process mostly by pictures.  It was really quite something!


Ok…so see that stack of vases behind the man?  He is inlaying them with wire to make a design.  The next pic shows a finished bowl that is ready to have color added.  Go ahead and take a really good look at that.  Check out the detail.  Each little section will have color added!


These ladies add the color bit by bit.  Then it is fired, and more color added.  It takes at least seven passes to get the colors as deep as they want them.  They also have to add the color to “fill” in the areas…so the wires are not jutting out.  Each time the pieces are shined.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat…


Here is the shining process and the bowls of color used.


This last picture is a really good example of being “partially” complete! You can see where the color has been put down, but how much more there is to fill.

They  not only do vases, they do pictures, jewelry, pens…it was pretty incredible.


Beginning and finished product.


Part way through the process…and completed in the store.

IMG_3503 Stacks of vases!

In an interesting switch, it was Corey and Stewart who found bigger ticket items that they loved.  Mary Ann and I did jewelry, but Corey found a vase and Stewart two pictures.

Thankfully, the items are amazingly light and while bulky, easy to carry.

After this we were off to the Summer Palace.  IRONICALLY…it had been sooo cold there, the canals were still partially frozen, so we could not take a ride on the “gondolas”


You can see the men working to break up the ice and get these boats moving again.  It was still pretty thick, so I’m not sure how long this process took.

IMG_3514Here is the Marble boat…well, actually, according to Frommer’s…it is neither Marble nor is it a boat.  It was built during a restoration of the Summer Palace.  This restoration was funded by moving money away from the Chinese navy.  This “frivolous” expenditure really came to light when the Navy was defeated by the Japanese in 1888.  So, while it is pretty, it is very  much resented b/c it shows China’s weaknesses in the modern era!

Then one thing I did NOT get a good shot of was the Long Corridor.  It is a covered promenade…over 700 meters in total. Each cross beam is hand painted with a different scene from Chinese History.  The guide books say that there are over 10,000 scenes in total

Here area few of the beams:IMG_3521IMG_3522IMG_3523

You can see each one is different and are quite detailed.  I’m not sure of the upkeep process, Some of course, were in  much better shape than others.

IMG_3526 With Mary Ann.  I have to say, by the end of the trip I was tired of seeing myself in that jacket..but it was necessary!

After a good walk around the Summer Palace, we did a quick drive-by of The Bird’s Nest, and other Olympic venues. 

This is where we probably did the MOST tourist thing EVER..but we LOVED it!

We went to an acrobat show.  They do 4 or more shows a day…and each act built on the skills and was more complex than the one before.  We had VIP Seats …. see?

DSCN0358 We were in about the 4th row…maybe a touch close, but thankfully nothing was really “above” us.

Then the show begins.  I compare this show to the ballet we saw in Russia.  Was it the BEST acrobats China had to offer? No…because they are all training for The Olympics…however…it was very entertaining.

IMG_3554 there was a sign to describe what was happening.

IMG_3556 Yes, they are spinning umbrellas on their feet.


They rode bikes.



stacked and balanced on chairs…


Carried each other up and down ladders


All pretty cool.

The Grande Finale was the motorcycle riders.  An orb  was brought on stage…and one by one, riders entered the orb and rode around inside.  By the end I want to say they had six riders in this thing…and no one was injured.  (Insert your own joke here)


All in all a terrific and fun 90 minutes.  And just think…in another hour they would do it all again…and  yes, some performers did more than one trick!

We headed back to the hotel for dinner and drinks:

IMG_3591For tomorrow was another day!

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