I love museums and, lucky for me, Shanghai has an amazing property right on People's Square. The collection contained within The Shanghai Museum is a mind-bogglingly beautiful treasure trove that took me 2-1/2 hours to go through, and even that was at a rushed pace. I could have easily spent half a day there.
They have displays of jade carving, pottery, seals, coins, furniture, brush painting, calligraphy, statues, and much more... all beautifully arranged in a really nifty building...
There were many pieces I loved, but this statue was a favorite. His disapproving stare just cuts right through you...
Once outside, I sat at the fountain and watched the kids at play. Chinese Children are adorable, friendly, and very curious. More than a couple times they would come up to say an enthusiastic "hello!" and then wait for you to say "hello!" back so they could say it again. And again. And again. This little guy was particularly friendly, and was happy to have his photo taken...
I later learned that this area of People's Square is a popular place on Sunday because it becomes an "English Corner" where Chinese students of English go to practice their skills. As I was taking photos, I met a guy (Lane) and his girlfriend (Lucille) who were kind enough to strike up a conversation with me. We got on well enough that they asked if I wanted to go with them to a tea house so they could purchase some souvenir teas for their families and talk along the way. Lane's English is better than mine, so it made for fun conversation.
Once at the tea parlor, they asked if I wanted to go to a "Traditional Tea Tasting" which was a fantastic highlight to end my day with. It was made even better, because Lane was translating everything, giving me an understanding about what was going on that I never would have had otherwise...
There were six teas we sampled, each with a fascinating history and purpose. Everything was perfectly orchestrated, and then entire ceremony... from how you hold a tea cup... to the proper water temperature... to what was in it... to where it came from... was given. We also got introduced to the "tea god" who brings you good luck when you pour tea on his back...
The teas we sampled: Ginseng Tea, Jasmine Tea, Fruit Tea, Mountain Green Tea, Li Zhiong Black Tea, and the totally fascinating "Five Golden Flower Art Tea". That last one was the kicker. It starts out as a tea ball with green tea leaves wrapped around five chained flowers. As the water is poured on the ball and it steeps, it unfolds to become a work of art that tastes amazing...
Lucille wanted very much for me to take some back with me, but I can totally envision the Customs Agents searching my bag to find THIS inside...
Can you say "felony drug possession?" I picture myself being dragged away in handcuffs while screaming "IT'S JUST TEA! BOIL ME SOME WATER AND I'LL SHOW YOU... IT'S JUST TEA! IT'S JUUUSSSTTT TEEEEEEEAAA!! It broke my heart to have to decline, but that kind of trouble I just don't need in my life.
After tea, we exchanged email addresses and parted ways. They are also traveling to Beijing for "National Day," so we might yet meet again before I leave China.
I was going to go to the top of the Peace Hotel to see the city lights from their NightBar, but it had been a very full day, so I decided to save that for my next trip into the city. All in all... not a bad day for Dave.
UPDATE: This is a common type of scam in China, so be sure that if "somebody invites you for tea" that you ask for pricing first, and explain that you are ONLY paying for YOUR tea. Usually, it's two or three girls who approach you, and then you find out that "girls don't pay in China" and have to pay for everything. In this case, I told Lane pay for his girlfriend so, if it was a scam, I was only out the $50 for myself (which was worth it to me, because the whole thing was actually kind of cool).
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I’m in love with Five Golden Flower Art Tea… That is the coolest!
Is there anything more fun than making new friends in strange new lands? And that tea, that is so freaking cool!
Cool pictures. That statue looks vaguely like my mother-in-law. Hm.
The Five Golden Flower Art Tea was pretty amazing. The surprising part was how good it tasted, which was delicious.
Making friends in foreign lands is terrific because it makes the world a much smaller place, and humbles you to realize that no matter where you are in the world, people are people and we’re all in this together.
I’m mad that I never wrote down the info on the statue. When I have a chance, I’ll have to look through my souvenir book and see if he is listed.
i’ve just begin my journey thru your blog and find that already these pictures/stories of your adventures should ACTUALLY be published in a hard cover book….
Thanks for the kind comment!
I don’t know that my photos are that good. I never take enough time to compose them, and just grab random snapshots to remind me of the things I’ve seen and where I’ve been. When I look at the photos in travel guides, and see how beautifully they are orchestrated, I don’t think I measure up. Only occasionally do I get lucky and have a really good picture come out of my efforts. 🙂
Dave, I just love your pics. I was born in Hong Kong and came to the states when I was 5 months old. I keep telling myself that I’ll have to go back there to visit…it’s just a matter of finding the time and gathering the funds together.
That Five Golden Flower Art Tea looks amazing. Maybe you can find some flowering teas in some of the tea shops in Seattle’s Chinatown. If not, I ran across a couple of online sources that sell them, so the customs issue shouldn’t be a problem. Hah!