Jing’s Residence at Ping Yao – Thaiyuan – China

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Splendid structure, elegant, has a special charm ….. located in Ping Yao, 1997, HERITAGE by UNESCO.

The ancient walled city was established some 2,700 years ago. It mostly stands as it was during its heydays in    the late Ming and Qing dynasties and is famous for its well preserved old courtyards, most notably the original  banks and mansions of the richest merchants of the time, some of the best-preserved traditional

architecture in China, the complete city wall surrounding the old city, and several historically significant Daoist and Buddhist temples.A walk on the centuries-old city wall is a memorable experience as it offers a bird’s eyes view over the tortoise-shaped city and peeks into the daily life of people going about their business in and out of the old city. In winter, the old city takes on an eerie feeling at night when Pingyao’s traditional red lanterns glow strangely in the silent city.

The Folk Art of Ping Yao

In the old city Pingyao, the two main streets at the center of town are lined up with numerous souvenir shops that attract many visitors. Local handicraft, Chinese memorabilia, clothing, books and antiques – old and not so old, are amongst the many items on sale. Hard bargaining is the rule. Below is a non-exhaustive list of traditional handicraft and folk art unique to Pingyao.

LACQUERWARE

According to historical records, China is the first country in the world to have used lacquer as early as in the Xia Dynasty, some 4,200 years ago. In those days, lacquer ware was very simple and basically made of bamboo molds painted with a lacquer layer. As civilization advanced, technique evolved and incorporated pigments to create colored patterns, and more elaborate decoration.

The fact that lacquer was waterproof, corrosion proof and could resist high temperature made it very popular and it soon became part of people’s daily life. Different dynasties created lacquer wares with their own styles and features and the production of lacquer reached its peak during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is during this period that Pingyao became one of the main lacquer centers in China with a large production used for dining accessories, decorative boxes, furniture, musical instruments, jewelry, chessboards and many other daily objects.

Pingyao remains famous to this day for the quality of its lacquer and many lacquer objects can be found in small shops all around the old city.

PAPER CUTTING

According to unearthed relics, paper cutting was already a folk art during the Northern Dynasty (386 A.D. – 581 A.D.) and is therefore a tradition in China spanning more than 1,600 years.

It is said that, at first, paper cuttings were only popular in the countryside where they were used as simple decoration for windows, doors, walls, and also during special occasions such as for marriage and different festivals to enhance the festive mood. Over the centuries, a large variety of designs were created featuring animals, plants, astrological signs, daily life scenes and even old tales. Simple tools were used like engraving knifes and scissor and patterns were passed by farmer’s wives from a generation to the next.

Many places in rural China are famous for paper cutting and Shanxi Province stresses the simplicity of the cutting and incorporates local art forms such as the famous pattern of the Shanxi opera characters.

DYE TEXTILE

Batik is one of China ‘s most ancient traditional printing and dyeing techniques best represented by its special white-blue and brown-yellow patterns.

According to old records, it was already popular during the Western Zhou Dynasty (2nd century B.C. – 771 B.C.). The technique was passed from generation to generation for over 2,200 years for the design of skirts, clothes, bags, scarves and handkerchiefs made of batik textile using distinctive patterns such as flowers, birds, fishes and even geometric forms.

While batik is very famous in the southern part of China and especially among the Miao ethnic minority group living in Guizhou Province, it also has had centuries-long tradition in Pingyao. Old records show that dye textile merchants used to conduct business in East Street in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

HANDMADE CLOTH SHOES

Handmade cloth shoes from Pingyao have been famous for centuries for their comfort, good ventilation and perspiration absorption. They are still made by local craft-men and women and one can see them at work in several shops in the center of the old city.

These shoes are often embroidered with figures of animals, flowers and plants that are supposed to ward off evil and bring good luck and wealth. Children’s shoes are especially cute with embroidered cat or tiger faces on them and an ideal gift.

 SHANXI OPERA

Shanxi Opera became famous at the imperial court in Xian during the Tang Dynasty and it is said that, at its heydays, the repertoire included over 10,000 operas whose plots often dealt with fighting oppression, wars against invaders, and issues of love and loyalty.

In addition to operatic acting and singing, Shanxi Opera also includes special effects such as acrobatics and is still performed today to the delight of visitors. Shanxi traditional puppet opera is also very famous in China.

 

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