Home' Get Up and Go : Autumn 2014 Contents ‘Tea is water bewitched .’
– Lu Teng
My Chinese friend directed
me to a tiny store right
opposite the Canton Hotel in
I used my Explore Guangzhou
iPhone app, took the Metro train west
to the Gongyuanqian station on the
Guangzhou Metro line 1, and walked
the remaining ten minutes using the
app’s street map. Line 1 is the yellow
one on all the Metro maps.
When walking city streets in
China, keep one’s eyes directed at
the ground. Footpath holes can be
sudden, treacherous, and very deep.
Along the street, I crossed the famous
Beijing Road. Archaeologists have dug
down under this ancient boulevard,
and unearthed the 1000-year-old Song
Dynasty pavement and entrance gate.
Beijing Road was now a pedestrian
mall with Song Dynasty excavations
clearly on public display, viewable
under glass covers. Modern shops
surrounded the mall, each blaring
their own youthful music to attract
appropriately youthful customers.
A few more blocks’ walk, and the
Canton Hotel appeared as a totem
of marble. It was suitably Cantonese,
a perfect image, right down to the
huge red outdoor lanterns. The hotel
landmark was in a narrow street,
so easily traversed. The little teapot
shop was, as advised, exactly across
the street from the hotel. It looked
The manager, Mrs Tang Wen,
greeted my arrival, along with her
young assistant, Miss Xiao Ting. After
my respectful request, Tang Wen very
kindly gave me permission to stay
and inspect the teas and teapots, and
photograph them freely. She brewed
me some succulent jasmine tea. I seated
myself at the traditional teashop desk
and drank far too much tea until my
mind began to swim joyfully.
Ancient dynastic tradition
Becoming conscious of the sheer
number and variety of Tang Wen’s
little ancient teapots, I realised the shop
walls were completely lined with little
teapots, and as well, round packages
of compressed tea, marked with huge
Chinese identification characters. Tang
Wen assured me all was in the ancient
dynastic tradition. Prices ranged from
300 Yuan for the smooth brown
versions of teapots, to 3000 Yuan for
the luxuriant yellow clay style of pot.
Teapots were about 10cm in diameter.
She explained to me that they were
made from a peculiarly fine variety of
clay, mined only in Jiangsu Province,
directly west of Shanghai, about a two-
hour flight north of Guangzhou.
The teapot workmanship was
extraordinarily fine for some pots,
and deliberately coarse for others. The
yellow teapot had, on its belly, quite
a sophisticated engraving of a love
goddess. One teapot had frogs eyes on
the lid. Another had ancient calligraphy
on the body. Another appeared to
imitate the ancient oracle bones style.
There were many of the smooth brown
standard fare kind of teapot too.
I drank my fill of many kinds of
tea, and decided to buy some jasmine
tea to take home as a gift. Tang Wen
pointed out one specific kind of tea
from Yunan province. She said this
tea is notoriously disliked by western
tourists because of its pungent aroma.
I decided not to try it.
Tang Wen strongly exhorted me to
stay for lunch. She would ask Xiao
Ting to cook for us. I accepted the
hospitality. Apparently, they had a
kitchen upstairs and luncheoned this
way every day. While I waited for my
lunch, in this loveliest of company,
a man arrived and told me very
authoritatively that his girlfriend was
a lawyer and she owned this shop. He
told me he was a food technologist,
and said if I wanted to do business
I should prefer to contact him.
Naturally, I agreed with him.
Xiao Ting served our lunch. I was
immersed in a traditional Chinese
afternoon where quality of life counted.
We drank more tea. I ate pieces of
spicy black beef with slivers of potato,
steamed rice and green beans.
I purchased 40 Yuan worth of
jasmine tea. It came vacuum packed
inside a dark green tea caddy with
raised calligraphy. I think the ladies
understood the real meaning of
business goodwill. •
With a strong desire to see ancient
dynastic Chinese teapots, as hand-made
by traditional craftsmen for thousands of
years, Garry Lilienthal sought authentic
advice for this excursion.
ASIA UNLIMITED: CHINA
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