Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Dear Old Friend Comes Home

Early in 2010 we had a horrible accident in our house. The lid from one of my favorite Shipiao Zini Zisha Teapots decided to take the plunge to the tile floor and a huge chip was the result. The teapot is an old friend and one I could not stop using, although every time I used it, the big chip was hearbreaking. The zisha teapot is used for brewing Yixing Hong Cha, one of my favorite teas.

**Be warned, the next photo is pretty gruesome!**

I had heard, years ago about how, in Japan, they repair pottery using lacquer and so I began my quest to get my lid repaired. After a lot of research I found a man in Japan who does this type of repair and according to the images on his website, he does an incredible job and is quite the artisan. I learned that the lacquer can be done in any color, including the same color as the broken piece, to hide the repair. I decided I did not want to try to hide it. I wanted to celebrate the repair, so I chose matt silver for the repair's color.

The problem was that I could not contact the artist because he could not speak any English, and although my Chinese is decent, it did not help. I have another friend in Japan who deals in pottery and asked him if he would help me contact the artist, which he did, thankfully. He asked that I not name him, because he is too busy to help others contact the artist, so regretfully, I cannot tell you. I am sorry. I sent my poor little lid to the artist and waited. The artist told my friend, who translated for me that the repair could take as long as six months. It took five for my lid.

The repair is very labor and time intensive. First, the lid needed to be cleaned and prepared so that the lacquer would stick. The lacquer, which is made from the sap of the Varnish Tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum). The lacquer is mixed with sand and a thin layer is applied, which needs at least three days to dry completely. The process is repeated until the chip is filled. Silver powder was applied and when it hardened, another layer of lacquer is applied and when that dried completely it was polished. The whole time my lid was being repaired, I still used my poor lidless teapot and I just dreamed of the day it would be whole.

When the lid arrived, I was so excited! I used the teapot all night. Ah, what joy. The repair is perfect. Other than the fact that it is a different color from the teapot, it is as though the chip never existed. He did a fantastic job. Now, every time I use the teapot, I get a real sence of joy. I know I may put too much sentimentality into my zisha tea ware, but each one has its own history and this one, for example has been in my collection for around twenty years and it has seasoned beautifully. A lot of investment is put into each of my zisha teapots and I get very attached to them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Huxinting (Mid-lake Pavilion) Tea House

Perhaps one of my favorite places in China, Shanghai's Huxinting Tea House is an oasis of comfort in one of the most bustling metropolises in the world.

The tea house was originally built, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), as part of the Yuyuan Garden. It is a pavilion located in the middle of a man-made lake, which gives it its name of "Huxinting", which translates as; Mid-lake Pavilion. In 1855, during the reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor Xian Feng, the pavilion was restored and turned into a tea house. It is a two storey structure in classical Chinese architectural style and the atmosphere inside is truly wonderful.

Currently, the tea house is located outside the entrance to the Yuyuan Garden. It is situated between the classic garden, and the Yuyuan Market, which is built with traditional Chinese architectural styles. During the day, the market, garden, and the tea house are packed wall to wall with tourists and it is almost impossible to access the tea house. But, in the evening, the tourists are all gone and all that is left are the locals strolling through the market. It is then that the Huxinting Tea House really shines. The tea house is virtually empty and the atmosphere is so soothing. I like to go to the second floor next to a window and just enjoy the views of the market. No matter what tea your order, you are given a place of traditional Shanghai tea snacks to eat with your tea. They compliment the tea wonderfully. The tea at the tea house is quite good. It is more expensive than if you were to buy the tea in a shop, but you are paying for the atmosphere, use of their tea ware, and the service. It is well worth it in my opinion.
Whenever I visit Shanghai, I make a stop at the Huxinting Tea House. I will generally go the first time by myself and the second evening, I will call some of my local Shanghai friends and invite them for tea. Either way, I settle in for the evening and it is truly joyous.
If you go to Shanghai, please do not miss the tea house, and if you go to the tea house, go in the evening.

To see more photos of the Huxinting Tea House, visit my Flickr photo albums at: