Red lanterns, Blue skies, and seahorse on a stick

Today we took the subway into downtown Beijing. Here is what the tunnel looked like at one of the northern stations:

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It is Chinese New Year’s Eve day, so its a wonderful day to be out and about. The air is clear, the roads are much emptier than usual, and the atmosphere is relaxed and happy. Our first stop was the National Museum of China, which is located at Tiananmen Square. It is free to enter and enormous!

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We spent about an hour and a half touring the ancient China section. There is so much more to see! For me, it was interesting to piece together information about the different dynasties, and to see some of the larger pieces, like this boat.

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Then we headed to Dongcheng District to Wangfujing Dajie. Lunch was marinated eggplant, rice noodles with pork, sautéed vegetable plate, and sautéed potato strips. All of us had our little bowl of mifan (rice), of course. Brian said we had to get snacks at “snack street”, so off we went. Here are the delicacies served there on sticks: 

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Hollis immediately wanted the corn on the cob, and Sophie chose a type of soufflé served on bread. 

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Say qie zi! (which means eggplant, but that’s what you say here….)
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In with the horse…

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We are just about one week away from the start of the Chinese New Year! (and firecrackers going off every night for 10 days) Decorations are everywhere!  We will probably get a lantern or two and we have the traditional couplets on either side of our front door.

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Temple fairs are where the fun takes place. We went to one last weekend at the Beijing City International School downtown. The girls were able to watch a shadow puppet show. Hollis painted her own red lantern, and Sophie bought a dragon puppet with her allowance. We ate dumplings and glutinous rice balls. We saw a man making honey candy shapes. It was very similar to glass blowing. He softened the honey candy with his hands and then inserted a tube.Then he blew into the candy and sculpted it. It looked so pretty, but I just don’t think its too hygienic….I didn’t see anyone buying any!

Shadow puppet show
Shadow puppet show
Honey Candy
Honey Candy

Earlier this week, Hollis was home sick from school and we got out our paints. She fingerprinted twelve paintings, and I made a first attempt at Chinese painting. The last time I practiced Chinese brush painting was during college. This time, I have my own set of materials and plenty of time. The ink can be liquid or solid. I have a solid stick, which needs to be ground into water in the ink well. It takes about three minutes to make the ink. I practiced all the different brush strokes, but need to work on the “leaf” so that I can paint bamboo. This is the traditional “first painting” that you work on. The book that I am following  lists the six basic tenets of brush painting according to one of the great masters, Hsieh Ho:

 

1. Enliven the painting with a sense of spirit.

2. Use brushstrokes as a means to suggest character.

3. Understand the natural form of the subject.

4. Apply color that is appropriate for the subject.

5. Create a skillful arrangement of objects and empty space.

6. Copy and pass on the methods of past masters.

It was quite relaxing and I plan to take time each week to work on it this semester. Hopefully I can live up to those hefty expectations!

Chinese brush painting setup
Chinese brush painting setup

 

Grinding the ink
Grinding the ink

brushstrokes
brushstrokes