Day 29 - 30th April - Jingdezhen to Hongcun

We started the day with a tour of The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen. The facility was set up in the 1960’s under Mao as a studio and facility for budding artists and continued under the control of the national government until the 90’s. Since then, according to Tony’s friends its ownership and control is a bit ambiguous, but still operates as a centre for those involved in ceramics, especially students.

We started off with a wander around the antique market. The challenge was to try to work out what was antique and what was fake. It was beyond our scope. Probably the most interesting genre for me, was not the Ming pots, but rather the Mao Kitsch. Plates with  figures in stern dance like poses, all very well fed and celebrating the Revolution. Onwards and ever upwards. Apparently there is quite a market in this stuff, especially if it is real, not a recent reproduction.

The Workshop also ran a market on Saturdays and Sundays. Students and recent arts graduates selling their work. Some pretty interesting and well made individual pieces at goo prices.

The whole facility is spread over a couple of acres and consists of every conceivable element of the pottery chain. Artists studios where that work on their pieces. Suppliers of clay, pigments and glazes. A couple of commercial kilns. These are large affairs that fire all the pottery for the Workshop. Then there are the guys making and selling packing materials for the pieces, commercial packers, freight forwarders, shops representing various artists, and of course the ever conspicuous and never absent food and drink vendors.

It was crowded. Full of locals haggling for a bargain.

We then set out late morning for a 24k run to Hongcun. Described on our map as an Ancient Anjou Village it is in fact a World Heritage site and protected.

Situated in the mountains about 500k west of Shanghai, it’s a walled town that is totally intact. Locals still live in many of the houses and most are engaged in tourism one way or another, running a guest house, restaurant or selling tea or other artifacts. The town sits in the middle of the Anjou tea producing area, the largest in China.

The day was cloudless and warm. The mountain air was dry and refreshing. Being a May Day long weekend I think most of the population of China was visiting. There may have been a couple missing, but I think most were accounted for.

Many of the Chinese tourists travel in groups with a guide. The guides, usually in their 20s are very identifiable with a flag, to keep the group together and a headset and amplifier to make sure that the group can hear what they are saying. The volume of their amplification would put Led Zepplin to shame. They are unbearable to be near, but the local tourists don’t seem to mind.

The other identifier of the group is the necessity to be in front of what the guide is talking about. No matter that the room may be tiny and 100 in the group. They will all try and barge their way in. We got caught on the inside at one place and quickly realized we needed to get out as the Chinese tried to cram 5 abreast through the doorway. Its lucky they don’t understand Rugby in this country as we made it out with Loris packing down behind me as I dropped a shoulder and went straight through the middle.

I am also not sure if industrial deafness is a problem in this country, or just domestic. If someone wants to have a few words with a partner, it’s not a matter of a quiet, private chat. They tend to go at it at full volume, just so everyone can hear. Maybe they get a few cues from the guides.    

Tomorrow, Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain, one of Chinas top 5 domestic tourist attractions and its May Day.