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

powered by pppBLOG v 0.3.10