Hangzhou Global Tour: Day six
Silk has a deep history in China that dates back thousands of years. The alluring fabric is woven into the lives of the people of Hangzhou (both literally and figuratively). From the cultivation, processing to its use in so many applications, silk is highly coveted and valued. To illustrate this point, we went to a fan and umbrella museum where we saw the art behind those beautiful Chinese silk fans and umbrellas we’ve all seen.
This museum shows visitors each step of the creation process, from the harvesting of silk, to the intricate construction of the fans and umbrellas. During our visit the families both had an opportunity to paint designs on their own fans to take home as souvenirs. While the focus of this museum is on silk fans and umbrellas, there are a number of other craftsman at work—from leather goods, jewelry to hand carved illustrations. Many of these items are available for sale, but as I discovered, most are not inexpensive. The level of detail in the work is astonishing and takes the craftsman a great deal of time to produce. I was admiring a leather purse that I wanted to purchase for my girlfriend, but about fell on the floor when I learned the price was 20,000 Yuan. I could have purchased a used car for that price back in the states.
The hand-carved paper illustrations was something else that struck me as interesting…I was surprised that the art form had not died out all together given how easily they can be produced through automation. These carvings are still highly coveted to those who can afford them. I couldn’t help but think it takes a very special person to do this type of tedious and painstaking craft. I learned that these illustrations were (are) used to place in windows during special occasions or celebrations. I imagine they would look quite beautiful as the light beams through.
Our next stop was to the Laokaixin Tea House located in the Grand Canal area near the Gongchen Bridge. While this is a new tea house, visitors go to experience authentic tea house entertainment. The entertainer is dressed in traditional Chinese attire on a stage telling folklore and singing songs to patrons who sip tea while eating sponge cake snacks.
After the entertainment, the facility began to bustle with people. Soon the venue was nearly full of local tourism leaders, government officials and many members of the media. All the Global Tour ambassadors were asked to come on stage and meet some of the dignitaries as we were presented officially stamped diplomacy certificates for our work as Global Tour representatives. It was such an honor to be on stage with all of these important people while the news media documented the entire ceremony. The enormity of the opportunity and responsibility really began to set in at this moment. We were all overwhelmed by the attention and the confidence instilled upon us to share happiness and Hangzhou awareness as we travel around the world…bridging cultural gaps and making lots of friends along the way.
While we’ve been in Hangzhou for several days now, this event was considered the opening ceremony. Upon its conclusion, we walked to the Grand Canal where a riverboat was waiting to take us on a dinner cruise. We were accompanied by Mr. Kong Li, the director of the Hangzhou Tourism Commission, who we found to be an amazingly charming, interesting and hospitable person. It was a very joyous evening with great food, lots of toasts and laughter, along with some amazing scenery of the Grand Canal as we cruised its banks peering out the glass windows of the boat.
As we concluded our cruise we disembarked just as the sun was setting. The sky was a fiery red, casting an amber glow upon the river below, right in front of the famed Gongchen Bridge. It was a magical ending to our fifth day in Hangzhou.