by Armstrong

(This site is best viewed on a wide screen 'real' computer not a telephone. The graphics do not lend themselves to 2 inch monitors!)
Day 2. HongKong.
Man Luen Choon

Address: Harvest Building, 29-35 Wing Kut St, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2544 6965
Chinese Art Supplies and Materials.
 


MAN LUEN CHOON - The Chinese Arts Secret Resource.  
"Massive, endless, inspiring, limitless...  this store is worth travelling half way round the Earth for. " 
(EXTENSIVE MAN LUEN CHOON GALLERY HERE!)


It's a fun, educational, inspiring and exciting experience for the Chinese Artist.

Man Luen Choon, stocking the most incredible and diverse array of materials I have ever seen on one floor in a single store. It's something worth travelling half way round the Earth for........... which is exactly what we did.

As you walk in trhough the door you're faced with a staggering view of paintings, ink stones in wooden cases, literature, more brushes and types of brush than you could ever imagine, brush vases and pots, brush hangers, seal stone clamps and vices, extravagantly carved ink stones, ornately wooden-boxed seal mud porcelains, ...  and the list goes on to cover everything you already knew existed plus leagues more.

Here, at Man Luen Choon, you will see the real price of goods as it should be for the struggling artist not the conditioned excessive prices the rest of the world charges.
Business is business but I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable so much of the goods here are.

For a simple example... how many of you have seen tubes of maries paints advertised on ebay for between £3uk / $6us to £4uk / $7us per tube?
Man Luen Choon sold me a dozen 5 tube boxes of maries paints for $170hkd, £1.70p / $3.40c per box of five. 
That works out at  34p per tube.  NOT 400p per tube?
It's understandable. Artists are not rich.  Paint should always be affordable. Its the basic need foremost. From this item onwards I could see how, just by choosing wisely, you could furnish an entire art table economically, but just s beautifully. Everything for the table in the Chinese world is made as beautiful as possible. It doesn't matter how economical the cost may be, alot of effort is put into your item to make it look and feel delicious.

HongKong harbours an incredible resource to the Worldwide enthusiasts and Artists of Chinese Painting here.
Tricky to find but don't give in. 
The sat-nav we used sent us outside and then into a building where, down a short corridoor and to the left, sat a lift attendant who told us that Man Luen Choon was on the 2nd floor.
A space without windows. A Store of endless treasures, limitless inspiration; collosal Libraries of Books on all topics covering the Chinese Arts.
I found to incredible  publications on Chao Shao-an. (At a third of the price the west would charge. )

If you plan to visit this store, give yourself an afternoon because you'll need that just to take in whats on offer.

 

Blank fan papers, fan spines and handles. Blank scroll tips. Silk. A huge array of papers, pressed car papers, books, zigzag books........... The array and choice of Brushes alone is incredible. Just studying the selection by so many makers..... I have gained a whole new respect for the Chinese Brush. I saw chicken feather brushes (of which I purchased a large and medium one... never having owned one of these before...) and was amazed at the colour range available in this medium. I bought a large one for about £28:00. For those in the know, a half the price back home.

The people behind the counter speak just enough English to get you through.

The gentleman (<<< pictured left) speaks excellent english and is also an Art Master.
His knowledge in the field is astounding and through his assistance I managed to get a suite of Montain horse Hair Brushes, akin to the kind Chao Shao-an used, for about $700hkd (£70) and also advice on the kind of fibrous cottony paper I should also use to emulate Chao Shao-an lessons.
Lucky for me and I mean by pure luck, I have already spend several hundred pounds on full size 100 sheet folds (74" by 27")  of this paper kind in about five different hues / fibre types.

Showing me a packet of 7 Wild Mountain Horse Hair Brushes  and walking straight to examples of tutorial literature in the massive library in the store I walked away from this shop with incredible treasures (more on that on another page later) and really felt the journey had been more than I ever expected. I have ached to see inside a Chinese Art Store and see this most traditional history before my eyes. The xuen papers. The hairs in the brushes and here, the brush types ran into hundreds and the count literally tens thousands. See the Gallery <<HERE!!!!!!>>

Its a crying shame that Europe and America do not stock the artists materials to this degree because seeing this store made all the western type stores in europe seem pathetic.  Not just from the limited range of materials they have compared to China's vast offering, but because for some reason the west deems art to be some kind of elitist field pricing materials unrealistically high and killing the true artists limited means.

I could have spent a couple of days sifting through the wares here at Man Luen Choon  but time was precious and the 8 days I was in HongKong whistled past like an express train. But at least we found this place, met the people, saw the wares on offer and came away feeling we had seen something that should be common knowledge to the Chinese Artist.

With help from my friend in Art, Elaine, I have access to these things but I would rather hope that, with Man Luen Choons staff assistance I could deliver and host a site online to display and promote the sales of materials from here for anyone outside China. 

Even though I was English and could not speak Chinese the staff made a definite effort to understand what I required and the gentleman who could speak english spent much time listening and advising and as the time came to leave and start the evenings exploration I felt I had really seen something here and, sitting back in Scotland writing this, I yearn to go and have another sift through all those treasures.

Man Luen Choon
Man Luen Choon (chinese Stationeries)  Art Supply Store Address: 2/Floor Harvest Building, 29-35 Wing Kut St, Hong Kong
Phone:+852 2544 6965
ManLuenChoon >> WEBSITE HERE

 

 

 


Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 14:28

Chinese Art, Chinese Brushes, Chinese Paper, Chinese Ink, Chinese Accessories, Chao Shao-an
Day 2. I finally met Elaine Yip.
by Armstrong

   Day 2. Elaine Yip and Man Luen Choon.  

After having been in touch with Elaine through the Chinese Arts for about 10 years I finally got the chance to meet her in HongKong for the very first time. This penpal of the adult world who for a decade has been text in an email client. Though it wasn't easy and I did wonder whether we were ever going to find one another.  I stood on the corner of an extremely busy city centre high street and waited in this strange land texting Elaine now and then and trying to make sure I was by the right place. Saigon street, its name photographed and analysed by a phone OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program for Chinese to English is precarious to say the least especially when "Elephant" seems to come in as a potential meaning for one character on its own!!!! 
So... when you're new to an area and finding exit "B" of the MTR station in Chinese is daunting as well despite having studied the language for a decade. .

However, finally a face I recognised amidst the crowds and our first event was to sit in a restaurant on the 2nd floor of an incredible office block ( I think) and have lunch and Traditional Chinese Tea. Proper Tea. My favourites being Oolong and Teh Quan Yin.  Something I had promised my self to do for years.

Teh Kuan Yin was the order of the day, something common in China I suspect but rare in the UK.  The food Elaine ordered..... I simply said I'd go along with whatever was most Chinese.    The food consisted of a large arrangement of small filled Dumplings, sauces and noodles and something frighteningly close to a sort of cuttlefish egg sack!!!!! At least they weren't still wriggling. Quite a variety, otherwise, actually. Delicious. The tea was flowery though I suspect in China they do not know of the brown stuff served as Tea in Europe.

We spoke of Art, the surrounds, the way the restaurant worked and the people who startwed to gather all around us.  When we walked in we were the 2nd table of about 30. Within a short while the entire place was heaving with people. The food was excellent and the day was slipping through my fingers again.

After lunch we made out way through the town towards Man Luen Choon.  This was to be the highlight of the year and something I was not prepared for as I walked up the crowded alleyway street towards an opening in a building because Man Luen Choon does not have a shop front, but rather is upstairs in the middle of a large building without windows. 

 

          Man Luen Choon  

 As we walked through the doorway I could not believe my eyes. The area was huge, much bigger than I expedted and heaving with art materials in the Chinese style. I have never seen so many Brushes in so many different style and containers. Incredible.

The things that struck me the most were the variety of xuen paper and types. Secondlty the cost of everything was about a third to a fifth of what Europe normally pays for these items on ebay and from the states. But thirdly, the cost of the brushes was alot more than I expected , not because they were not worth it, but because they deserved more respect than I had given them. My failing.  Paint brushes and Calligraphy bruishes in China are serious business.

It was incredible to look through the store. The library of books was almost eternal and most publications were in Chinese by 98% (nothing new there) so I inadvertantly found two superb books by Chau Shau-an. My current master by example. One book came with a 22 gig DVD which, to my amazement when I got back to England, contained about 6 tutorial videos by Chau himself. Absolutely a bonus. Now I can see how the brush lays on the paper and how the paint is supposed to work. Stunning. very happy to see this.

I made a short video in the store as the people there were impressed that I wanted to document the place and put it on the web for europe. So I had free run to photograph the premises and stock for the video coming later.  The master there explained about Wild Horse Hair Brushes and supplied me with about 5 medium ranging brushes. He said these were the style Chau used for his works and that also I should use the cotton fibre paper for my work and studies as this was not sized but neither was it raw. And it would work correctly for the style of Shau-an.

So enjoyable to sit and listen to a master who teaches Chinese arts and who works in the store as well. An incredble day.... 

Later Elaine took me to see a tea treader and in this store I saw  that you could buy a pound (1 lb) of tea for around $3,800:00 hk dollars, which is about £380uk pounds. For 1lb of tea.  Yes, in China when you say, "Would you like a cup of tea?.. or "Nǐ xiÇĊ½ng hÄ“ bÄ“i chá?" It most definitely  won't be the stewed freeze dried chopped stems the west are so conditioned to accept as tea.
It was funny in the store becasue I smelt the teh Quan Yin and it was flowery and soft scented; delicious. I know this Tea, I can say with confidence. But the oolong.... I smelt the sample packet and it was actually faint but sour. I frowned, smelled it once more.... definitely sour.
"It's sour!" I announced to Elaine who also frowned and took the sample to smell. The man behind the counter looked very concerned and fussed about for a completely new packet. He opened this one and smelt it himself before handing me that one. He took the "sour" one.
I smelt the new packet and, ahhh, thats Oolong. Oolong has a kind of  deep liquid scent you cant mistake for anything else.
The man behind the counter was so imrpoessed that a westerner has identified "bad tea" that I was given a free packet of Teh Quan Yin with my order of two tins of TQY and Oolong.  I parted with the cost for these teas, knowing I would not return to HongKong or any other tea shop for quite some time... so I spent extravagantly on my two tins of tea.... and came away happy.
At home in Scotland I have about 30 different types of tea and about three varieties at least of Teh Quan yin. 
Tonight in the hotel I will try these teas. If you think tea is typhoo, yorkshire (make me alugh, ) or PGTips, think again. your drinking freeze dried cuttings shredded and blasted with the treated sap powders which contain caffiene and tannin of no taste.
Spend some time searching out Chinese Tea leaves and take a drinnk from a teapot and realise the conditioning you've suffered because the taste of real tea is wonderufl and makes having a "cuppa" really worthwhile and educational.

Some of the teas I have are small mandarins stripped out fo the wet fruit, the skin is then packed tightly with tea, and the "lid" put back on. The  this little fruit is wrapped in foil and left in a drying house for a year or two.
Then sold.
I have about a dozen types of this tea and they are all wonderful and not drenched with the tang of citrus either, the end result os a much finer softer flowery flavour sometimes not evben remotely like citrus at all.
Its a side interest of mine because China has SO so many types of tea. Yellow, Orange, Black, Greem, Amber....... and then there's japanese teas like a fine green powder that sometimes smells of chocolate. Sometimes roses.
....  and in the west.... we have brown sludge. Freeze dried and sprayed back onto stems and stalks. Masses of tannin to coat the blood veins and caffeine.

Many types of Chinese tea don't have caffeine or Tannin. But the west doesn't know this. Most types of tea taste flowery and have been aged in tea huts for 5 to ten years sometimes and then smoked...  commonly, but the west doesn't know anything further than PG tips and (shudder) Yorskshire tea. "The taste of home" whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.  Compared to Yun Nan Puer Po Nee... you'd wonder why Englsih Supermarkets do NOT stock Chinese teas when they are in SUCH massive abundance in China.

On that note, I bought some very elite The Quan Yin (1/2 lb) for little under $600 hkd from a very upmarket Tea shop Elaine showed me. Something you have to do once. 
Some of the teas in there were priced at about $3800:00hkd for 1/2 lb. 
Now you may be able to undertsand why I was so intent on Elaine taking me to a Tea shop as a prioritised element of my Visit to HongKong. But I didnt expect to see £3000+++  tins of dried leaves.  But it was exciting to see them. And realise that tea in China is taken very very seriously.

So a big thankyou to Elaine for a wonderful day and for spending alot of time being my translator, showing me around HongKong, Taking me to Man Luen Choon, Introducing me to a very elite Tea Trader (where I puirchasd some fine Teh Quan Yin and Oolong) and for chasing over 50 taxis until we found one happy enough to take me the one mile back to the hotel.  taxi's in HongKong seem to come from another planet.

Bit like me, really!  

======================================+++===============================

 

 

 

 


Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 00:35

by Armstrong

   HongKong or Bust!

Day 1.

Finally I stood, for all the world to see, on Chinese Soil. HongKong, then, for me was something I had to see and mainly because, buried amidst this intense society of workaholics rattling about their business undaunted and undistracted by the mass of "everything" churning past, there are two Chinese Art Stores of some repute but otherwise rather hidden on the internet.

After Maxine and I had unpacked and sorted out what we were going to wear in the hotel we went outside and for the second time I felt the heat and humidity contrast from inside to out (inside which was too cold to wear just a shirt in almost all establishments.)  Its the first time my glasses steamed up going outside and I had to put something warm to wear on going inside. The air cons were set to really too low. I took a sweater with me most places. Laugh, but to begin with the air temp is nice. Then.... you shiver.
An 'Education' then.

It's when you can stand back and take in whole chunks of this landscape; see the entirety of this massive working industrious engine of the Chinese People, that you really appreciate how fast it's all grown and how changing the landscape is even as I write.

The first we noticed as the plane comes in for landing is how busy the harbour is. There are so many boats and ships and barges but not particularly of any size... (and sadly no junks that I could see either... :(  )  just holding, in some cases, one or two "containers" as stored and hauled about every harbour on earth.

Making our way from the airport via train (some kind of underground) was interesting. The train has no intersected carriages so you can see from one end all the way down the full mile to the other end. Going round corners you see the end swinging about until you also take the turn. Interesting to see and something visually poetic about it too.

The people all queue up to board the train but as soon as the secondary glass doors open (Youre held in a contained platform where the train arrives behind glass panels and when the train doors open then the glass doorways also open. No chance of suicides here.)  the ordered queues reform to become a raucus crowd hurtling themselves into the tube train en masse and clinging onto any bar, spring or security they can before the train whistles off again.

Exciting times and my brain at this point is racing through what I might find in these two art stores. The main one being Man Luen Choon. A store that to this day only has about 1 image half a dozen times on any search engine of its wares. I hope to change that internationally. People need to see, not only that Chinese art supplies are a fifth the prices they're paying in the US and Ebay arenas,  but that the range and variety of papers and accessories is leagues above what has been seen in the west so far.

It's like some un-guarded secret; some unspoken order than denies access to such materials any further than the chinese broder. I'll post a page or three on the stores I found here and also make a standalone page to advertise what they do and what they stock. So if you're a chinese artist, I suggest you bookmark this because it will hold links to real eye openers.

 Maxine and I stepped out into the high street and were faced with the glitzy modern... but it doesnt take long to discover that in so many places the shabby backend sits between these buildings and scratches along in an altogether environment. It's a real eye opener. On the one hand you can step into a modern very high tech shopping mall and the outside high street oozes with metallic modernity and efficient technology...

Turn a corner and you'll see that somehow the poorer Chinese have bypassed the effects of hygene and are living in conditions and working in environments that make you grimace but walk forwards to see anyway.

One stall I noticed showed marketeers changing the fish from the polystyrene containers into tanks to "revive them" and slapped out some more into the water filled polistyrene containers to swim about and look lively and fresh.

Beside this was a girl cutting their heads off as they flapped about and fin and tailing them for a customer and aside down a thin alley where the market extended on another day  I saw live chickens and ducks being handled in exactly the same manner.

While this siunds barbaric the freshness of the meats involved do not contain disease because if the food was prepped before hand and laid out in poly boxes as over here.... it would go bad in the same morning. The temperatures here are 25 to 30 degrees c. The humidiy is like drinking the air some afternoons. So be prepared if you're not aware.


      FOOD TO GO....  

It's not everyones cup of tea to have their lunch performing death throes in their shopping bags but no less tricky looking about the markets and shops that have their wares on trays and boxes outside either. Its a horrifically delightful explorative affair looking at what on the one hand appears to be a chicken leg drumstick................. but that seems to have been genetically grafted onto something that looks like a cuttlefish cross octopus bladder. Don't ask me! I just took the picture.

(Left.) there are whart appear to be spare ribs but the acrid smell of carrion doesn't do alot for my appetite. And aside from these delights there are always dried fish of every description and I mean every. Some of them look like they're crustaceons dried and, sort of inflated!!!!!! Well, they do! Vitamin "D" bubble gum?? Who knows.

In all, the markets were highly colourful and exciting because in these street markets, if you can turn your head away from the usual touristy crap on sale, you get a good cross section of the kind of common place in China and especially here, in HongKong, what sells. The Chinese are very tenacious and the stalls you see are stocked with what they are because such stock moves and you're the ones who mnake it so. 

I found on the whole the stalls held a wide variety of super-colourful nothings and trinkets you can't live without and I succumbed and bought a few.  A few???????? I hear you ask!
Yes, just a few.

Night Markets.
The night markets were fun to browse about in mainly because it's so late but people are rushing about like its saturday morning.  The lights and city lights mixed with the sizzling  smells of cafe's and restaurants and..... well, I'm not too sure what to call all the other 80% btu they are, suffice it to say, places where you sit down and eat the food thats cooked to order.

Scary.
On passing one cafe I did note that these long hairlike strands of fatty grease and clinging dust and.... what looked like fibres of "stuff" caught in the air.... it was all shiny, sticky, dribbling with oil, and was the deposit of fatty smoke above the friers that had caught all manner of pollution and grime and it literally hung in lengths about 15 inches down from the metal rafters the marquee draped across. The ceiling area was about thirty feet by about 15 above the "cooking area" of this semi-inside-outside cafe marquee and the people's food would have been spattered by this hanging drenched dark brown debri as the wind and passing traffic dislodged hunks of it to drop down on the floor anf tables and......

Stomache it!
Which is why I say, somehow the Chnese seem to have bypassed hygene and can live through anything free of poisoning and infection. But this is the way it was across so many places I saw. Trays of chicken thighs five deep and thirty across sitting on cardboard on a wall with a man selling them as his income. All afternoon in the ehat these things will sit there awaiting their custom.  While you're there you kind of see this stuff and dont respond to it.

 

   Markets...  



   HONG KONG PARK.  

HongKong Park. Now this is a place I saw on video on youtube one year... about 2007 or so. The person who video'd this also created a video of spiralling Koi Carp by the thousand.  This video I commented on and asked the person where they lived and what they most enjoyed doing. They said they lived in HongKong and enjoyed Art and painting  most.

From then on I wrote to Elaine Yip and when Maxine said we were going to HongKong I thought we have a friend there we can rely on for navigation and translation.   Now, I stood in HongKong park and it was a superb feeling to stand somewhere I imagined was impossible for me to see in the flesh. Around us was an aviary of about 100 feet high and 300 feet round. huge trees towered inside it and the birds flew both above us and below as we walked a gangway suspended from the ground.

It was beautiful to see these birds, now kind of tame to the public, and as I turned round one was sitting right besdie me and one was "talking"  to Maxine and curiously approaching.

Peace amidst chaos.
The oddity of this park is that, while  being quite large it's actually right in the middle of a busy city centre. The towering trees try to conceal the towering skyscrapers around uis and the drone of traffic, while being prevailant, is also hushed by shrill birdsong as you stand in this hot humid enclosure which feels like a rain forest.

The brids were in good variety  and there were also some incredible butterflies and moths whizzing past and hiding amongst the leaves.  The day was whistling by me, too, and light started fading so we headed back to the hotels to change and go out for dinner.

 

   Dusk in HongKong...  

The night lights in HongKong are something to see.  You really need a digital camera that gioves a digital view of whast the sensor see in this environment because otherwise the guesswork  will be immense. I've just bought a Fuji HS50 which is their top of the range HS series cameras and it excells at night photography. It even takes triple exposures and blends them together to decrease grain at very high iso's (asa's for the original pro's amongst us.)

The signs hanging down every alleyway and side styreet suddenly start to come to glorious flurescent life and their colourful spray of shimmer makes the environment even more gracefull to drift amongst, despite the carnage of the goods being prepared as you wander past.

We sat down to eat.
The people stand outside their cafes and try to speak to you, asking if youre hungry, and would you like a table for????? etc etc. One such "Cafe", a kind of doorless garage, we entered and sat down. The walls covered in shiny predominantly yellow  pictures of shellfish, animal segments and fish from the depths waiting to be eaten. I ordered a Grouper as they are extremely deep sea fish and I had never seen one for real let alone eaten one. With a bill of about $80hkd (About £80 UKP) I decided that, for a garage, this was a little expensive and I could probably buy a small car for the same price to drive me back to the hotel so instead I ordered a fish not quite to deep in the ocean and not quite so deep a lunge into the pocket either.  The food tasted good to us all ....... but the following day, we realised in a mad rush, just how rather unhealthy the food had been as it evolved into something else inside us as we slept. Alien had nothing on this.

It was, none the less, a really entertaining and enjoyable evening. Raw and basic with raucus humour from some of the locals drunk and apparently celebrating their daughters wedding engagement though, as the evening wore one, I suspected the wedding led daughter routine to be something they used frequently to lure holiday makers into buying the majority of drinks. With several refusals we made our way back to our hotel and made Tih Kuan Yin before bed time.

The days end.
Sad, then, as, already, the first day had ended in a whirr of activity and color of everything new and strange, commonplace but uncommon, but the ride had been as incredible as seeing the sun rise in the sky at 2am through the Boeng 777 window as we hurtled towards HongKong, beating it 6 hours ahead of its european morning.


Monday, 23 November, 2015, 20:10



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