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

Lumpy laile!

090428 ©IBM

Our neighbors left for the states this morning and yesterday we inherited a bunch of down and out plants and a goldfish named Lumpy. Lumpy came in a glass bowl in as bad a state as the plants so to make "her" feel better I moved her into a new home and blinged it with a few trinkets I bought on Jinli Street. Jinli has recently expanded and there is a new shop that I am absolutely crazy about selling artisan ceramics of all kinds from China's porcelain capital Jǐngdézhèn 景德镇. So Lumpy has a ceramic lotus seed pod, blue and white floating balls and a ceramic fish in whose mouth you can anchor the plant roots. She's got so much furniture now that she can hardly swim around, tomorrow she will be upgraded to a larger bowl. But for now, like it or lump it, Lumpy!