Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Incense burner and huā 花 niǎo 鸟 chóng 虫 yú 鱼

Incense burner from Hua Niao Chong Yu ©IBM

Hua niao yu chong ("flower, bird, fish and insect") is a common expression for a special kind of Chinese culture where the practitioner indulges in raising and growing small plants and animals, recreating a simile of nature in an urban environment. Crickets, birds, turtle, goldfish and ornamental carp are the typical animals and the flowers, of course, are endless, although leaning towards ones that have symbolic meaning like peonies, orchids, narcissus etc. Without knowing it I have been trying to create my own little hua niao yu chong world on our apartment terrace. I have a pond for my eight koi carp, flowers and plants galore and numerous trinkets to play with when drinking tea (usually coffee for me). I perfectly understand the need to retreat from the maddening crowd and spend time surrounded by beautiful things. This ideal life was of course reserved only for the rich in the China of the past, but today anyone with a few yuan can put a goldfish in a bowl of water and watch it swim around in circles. 

As I mentioned yesterday I have found a wonderful shop in one of Jinli Street's newly opened back alleys where I can buy all sorts of delightful ceramics from Jǐngzhèn in Jiāngxī Province. The name of the shop is appropriately called Niao Hua Chong Yu and they have created a wonderful logo from the characters, painting them to look like what they represent (bird, flower and fish are originally pictographic representations. I don't know about worm/chong though, here is how it is written in traditional chinese ). There is a very Japanese feel to this little shop, and I have to force myself to stay away. Latest purchase (actually my mother bought it for me as an early birthday present) is the incense burner above (xiāng lú 香炉). On the way home it only took a second to buy sandalwood incense (tán xiāng 香) in one of the many Tibetan stores on Wuhou Hengjie. 

huà niǎo chóng yú 鱼.

Check out their website: hcny.blogbus.com


  1. My dear friend, PLEASE do not publish any more of these wonderful photos on your blog! They are absolutely too stunning and make me almost cry of needs, cravings, wantings, "gottohave" of all these beautiful things you obviously find in the Jinli Street shop! The above incense burner is soo lovely! Remember we talked about starting an import business Chengdu - Norrköping with all these lovely things? Well, if I was a rich girl I would do it just for my own pleasure... anyway, the above "stilleben" is perfect! :-)

  2. Now Annika, you are just going to have to control your urges a bit better! (Says I who can hardly control my own! ;-) Anita was also "helt lycksalig" and also wanted to buy the fish trinkets. I still think our idea of a little store of "Things Chinese" would be a hit - I've got such good taste! Thanks for the encouragement, more, more, more!

  3. Good taste runs in the family then. Since it was your mother who was the "explorer" of the above incense burner, maybe she wants to come along for the ride. "Senior taste expert" - a suggestion for her business card...
    I do just fine controlling my urges... except when it comes to shopping... you know I have "friends" and fans of the "white-empty-showroom-home-style" who already find my lovely flat too crowded - despite the lack of an incense burner in grey ceramics (spelling??)...

  4. Spelling fine, I picked the incense burner, Mom paid (perfect arrangement!). Hmmm, what shall I pick out next?

  5. And I´m gonna shop a lot while visiting Chengdu - jippy yeah!
    Kram Anki