Saturday, April 7, 2018

Strollin' Thru The Xi'an 'Hood With Yim. Shuyuanmen Ancient Culture Street.


Te moment we left the old city walls behind, we found ourselves on the quiet streets of the old neighborhood.  We didn't have any sort of a map to guide us so we just walked up a street to see what was there.  A few shuttered up shops, not yet open for business.  Some quiet homes and side alleys.  Even though at times, there wasn't much interesting to look at, I love walks like this....it's a small peek into local life.  Yim and I barely spoke on the first part of our walk.  It was as if our quiet surroundings hushed us into silence.  So, I took photos and here are a few of them.


A mural of Totoro, the lead character in a 1988 Japanese animated movie adorns the wall of a hostel.

Cat cafes seem to be very popular here, a trend imported from Taiwan.





Our first street dead ended so we double backed and headed down another street which took us away from the shops and into the residential area.  The place was dead.  Not a soul around.




There wasn't much to see here either so we turned around again.  Things were getting a bit disappointing for me.  I could've sworn that Shuyuanmen Ancient Culture Street was in this area but I had yet to see any sign of anything to do with Chinese calligraphy.


We headed down yet another street and this time we hit the jackpot.  We ended up in a small square where calligraphers were displaying their works for sale.  Here, the works were just placed on the ground, held down from the wind with rocks.


The brush was invented in China around 300 B.C. Together with the inkstone, inkstick and paper, these four writing implements form what is known as the Four Treasures of the Study, a very integral part of Chinese history and culture.  This is one reason why Chinese calligraphy is so revered and what Shuyuanmen Ancient Culture Street, in a way, is all about.


An arched gateway led to an area that looked to be filled with more shops. This time things looked promising as there were a lot of people wandering the streets.  That was as good sign that the business were open.


And I was right.  Not just about the businesses being open but that we were in the vicinity of Shuyuanmen Street.  Every which way I looked, there was something to do with calligrapher either on display, for sale or both.

Brushes.  They come in all different sizes and of course, quality.

How I wished I could read the lettering.




Again, we just walked about and again, happened on a square....this time it was filled with artists and vendors selling their calligraphic works of art.  Sad to say but I am not one who is good at choosing things when there are a thousand options to choose from so nothing really captured my eye today.  I would leave without making a single purchase.


Chinese are credited with inventing paper.  Just a public service reminder. 😁




We did pause to watch one artist practice his writing. Oddly, I felt like I would be rudely disturbing him with the clicking sound of my camera shutter so I just took a handful of photos and then put my camera down.


It obviously takes a lot of experience and skill to hold the pen up and draw the fine strokes that make up each character which of course represents a word.  There is no such thing as a delete button so he absolutely cannot make a mistake with a stroke.  He also has to fully concentrate because he omit out a character in whatever story, poem or essay he is writing.


Proper Chinese calligraphy ink brushes are made from animal hair, typically goat and the handles can be fashioned out of horn, wood or even stone.




I paused to watch this woman use string and water to bring the bristles on a brush to a sharp point.  I always wondered that was done.  Who would've thought it was such a simple method?




Mixed in with all the shops selling calligraphy and calligraphy supplies were art galleries, boutiques selling clothes and household goods and tea shops.  Yim and I are always on the eye out for artwork so we did pop into a few art galleries.  Again, nothing that excited me enough to want to bring it home with me.


Dining al fresco in China means chowing down on a bowl of noodles while seated on a simple stool.  No table or wait staff required.




Seems like most people here live in apartments so the streets are often an extension of personal space.  No one minds it here and it most certainly makes for a nice photo op.  I love taking photos of every day life.  At the rate China is advancing, scenes like this might become history faster than anyone can imagine.


But no matter how quickly change comes to China, one thing for sure.  They will still be hanging their birdcages where ever one can be hung up....even out front on a public street.  And they can rest assured that no one will steal their bird!










Today was a picture perfect spring day and it being a Saturday meant the day for brides to have their photos taken.  In Asia, it's common practice for both bride and groom to have their wedding photos taken ahead of the actual wedding day.  Like all brides, they go all out with their dress, makeup and photography.  Of course, red is the desired colored.  Yim and I must have walked past at least a dozen brides and the occasional groom, posing and having their photos taken.


The facade of the old city wall was a particularly popular spot for the brides to pose alongside.  There were quite a few of them lined up on various spots along the wall, all nicely spaced out so as to not intrude on each other's space.






For the most part, they were all dressed in red colored versions of Western style gowns.  Only one bride was costumed in a dress that was inspired by her Chinese heritage and I thought both she and her groom looked like a very lovely couple.  Most certainly, he is very unconventional in his choice of a red, presumably silk brocade, jacket.


No computer games today.  Looked like they were playing a Chinese version of duck, duck, goose.

We eventually wound up standing before a pagoda that sits alongside the arched entrance to Shuyuanmen Street.   This is Hua Pagoda of Baoqing Temple.  I don't know if you can visit the pagoda or temple or if it's even worth visiting.



Once you see this Hha pagoda....which you can't miss because of its height above the trees, look to your right and you'll see the colorful arched entry.


Welcome to Shuyuanmen Ancient Culture Street aka Calligraphy Street.


Porcelain water bowls for cleaning brushes in.  Even these bowls are little works of art.


You would think that given all the fuss I had made about coming to this street that I would've been more thrilled to have finally arrived at the starting point for the street but truth is, even though we had entered from a different direction, we had already seen most of the neighborhood so we literally checked out a few places and then left.  I'm glad I did get to come back here though.  When I was here in 2009, I really didn't know anything about this place so I really didn't appreciate my time here.  Today was a completely different experience.  If and when I ever come back to Xi'an, I will come here again.  I like it here very much.

But now, it's time for lunch!