TOUR:  The ‘Mingei’ Tradition in Central China

13th March – 5th April 2008
Suzhou, Guilin & the tribal areas of Guizhou Province, Changsha,

Ji’an & Jingdezhen the porcelain capital of China

It will be 30 years next Spring since I first travelled to China with a group of UK potters, including Janet Leach.  It had taken three years to get permission for our trip, during which time Mao had died and the Gang of Four were in the ascendancy!  

In the Spring we will start in SUZHOU, famous for its gardens.   When the Mongols invaded north China the court moved south and its scholars and painters created their worlds within the confines of these gardens.  We hope to visit other artists and craftsmen during our stay there.    I had always imagined classical Chinese painting as mythical landscapes of the imagination but as we first flew into GUILIN I was stunned to find them a reality and our river trip to YANGSHUO will give us time to relax and take it all in! 

The mountainous area of GUIZHOU PROVINCE, through which we will travel, is home to thirteen different tribal people’s, each with their own style of hair and dress whether woven, plain dyed indigo, batik or embroidered.   Magnificent finely tooled silver ornaments, basketry and musical instruments, architecture and ‘sheltered’ bridges give witness to these differences. 

In CHANGSHA we will visit the unique mausoleum of the Marquis of Dai, his wife and son, which date to the 2nd century BC.  She was found ‘intact’ in her tomb, so much so that scientists performed an autopsy on her and were able to tell the contents of her last meal.  Until that time they did not think melon part of the diet but there were undigested melon pips in her stomach!!!   Food for the journey was found with her as well as the finest silk threaded garments, weighing no more than a single stocking, clothing and decorated banners, superb lacquerwares and wooden objects.   A layer of china clay surrounding the tomb had help in its preservation!   The museum housing these artefacts is a riot of reds and blacks.  

From here we will travel to Ji’an (JIZHOU) famous for its black wares and visit kiln sites and potters who still make the traditional wares.   Enroute to JINGDEZHEN, the porcelain capital of China, we will visit the museum of Badashanren a famous Chan (Zen) Painter.  We hope to have a demonstration of calligraphy and Sumi painting during our stay at Sanbao which will be our base in Jingdezhen.  It is situated in the countryside outside Jingdezhen which has developed from my first visit in 1984 into quite a metropolis!   One of the high-lights of a previous visit was to watch two potters throwing together approx. 50 kilos of clay and assembling large porcelain vases in 5 / 6 sections.   We will also have visits to studios and demonstrations.

Wenying, our co-ordinator and fellow-traveller and ‘boss-lady’ at Sanbao has offered, for those of us who wish, a one, two or three week extended stay when we can really get our hands into the porcelain clay etc, for approximately an additional £100 per week.

Landprice (including internal flights):   £2,000
Flights London / Shanghai / London:  £550
Single Room Supplement:    £220

Please do not hesitate in contacting me should you have any questions about this trip or would be interested in joining another in the future.

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