Saturday, May 22, 2010

We Learn About Pixiu and Silkworms

I always have good intentions of coming home from work and updating the ol' bloggypoo, but somehow it just doesn't happen. Partially because I'm tired of staring at a computer and partially because it's fun to sit around and watch movies while I cross stitch :) (Like my mom, I'm maybe a little obsessed with it at the moment...)

Anyway, after we did the ADHD tour of the Shanghai Museum, our tour guide Jessica took us to some kind of art exhibit/showroom thing that I don't remember the name of but it was where they had a lot of jade stuff. There was a very nice lady there who showed us around the exhibit and showed us all different kinds of jade and things made from jade, starting with the Happy Buddha:

You rub his belly for good luck (the way the lady said belly, the L's were like a cross between L and R so it sounded kind of like "belry" which I thought was funny. Then again, I can only say three words in Chinese and probably all of those with a horrible accent, so I can't laugh too hard).

This massive dragon boat is made out of one enormous block of jade so it's all the same color. I thought we had a picture of us all in front of it, but I can't find it. The boat was something like 6 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide, pretty impressive. But these weren't the only dragons:

It would have probably cost more than our house to take this orange dragon home :) although I'm not 100% sure if this was actually made of jade, because some of there stuff wasn't. Lots of green jade, but also white and pink and orange. It's kind of hard to tell from the picture of the dragon but I think he's got five toes, which means he's an imperial dragon. Only the emperor was allowed to have five-toed dragons on his stuff.

The lady also showed us three bracelets and asked us if we would guess which one was made out of real jade (I didn't guess correctly, but I think one of the others did). Turns out that real jade will scratch glass, so they have to use diamond-edged blades to cut jade. Also, she struck the bracelets with something (couldn't tell if it was glass or another piece of jade) and told us to listen to the tone. The real stuff made a clear, high-pitched sound when struck, and the other pieces made lower tones and they just sounded muddier if that makes any sense. Then we got to learn all about these:

This is a pixiu (pronounced peeshoo). Looks kinda sorta like a shishi dog, but it's's supposed to be the offspring of a dragon and a phoenix, and it is meant to attract good fortune. Supposedly the pixiu can only eat gold and wealth, but it can't go to the bathroom (I'm so looking for a delicate way to say that...) so good luck and wealth only go in, not out. The more he eats, the fatter he gets, so you want a really fat pixiu.

Right after this we were shown into the big showroom where they tried to sell us all kinds of stuff like earrings and necklaces and figurines and lots and lots of pixiu. (Unfortunately we didn't take any pictures because we were busy looking, not photographing). While Missy and I were looking at the jade earrings, the employees were swarming Lee and Bennet and showing them about a thousand pixiu, and they kept repeating over and over "no anal" just to really get the point across. Of course the pixiu then became the butt of all our jokes (haha, I crack myself up) for the next ten days. In the end, we got a little green jade pixiu pendant who is maybe an inch tall and two inches long. I think Missy and Bennet got one too about the same size although they kept trying to sell us the bigger (and thus more expensive) pixiu. They also showed us a pixiu that's supposed to be good luck if you want to start a family but we all dropped that one like a hot potato (sorry Mom and Dad, no grandbabies for you!). We got ones that are holding coins in their front paws to attract more wealth...we figured we would need all the help we could get after this trip, ha!

After the jade exhibit, we ate lunch and again took no pictures (man, we missed out on taking pictures quite a few times but we still came home with like 1500!). Our guide asked if there was anything we wouldn't eat so we said no seafood, and so what we got was a family-style meal of lemon chicken, pork, shrimp & peas, and several other things with rice, of course. We started out with about three dishes on the table and every few minutes they brought in something else--we didn't find out until later that the Chinese dislike it if you eat everything that's put in front of you because then they feel like they weren't able to serve you enough food to satisfy you. We couldn't have eaten all this stuff if we'd really tried, but the amount of food that must go in the garbage every day in China is astounding to think about.

Next up, we went to a silk shop and got to learn about the silkworm's life cycle from Pierce Brosnan. No really, the Chinese guy who showed us around there said that his English name was Pierce Brosnan. We weren't 100% sure if he meant it as a joke or not, though.

That's Pierce over to the right. They showed us some silkworm cocoons and explained that there are two kinds, one for a single silkworm and then a double cocoon made by two worms that are really good friends. For the single cocoons, once they find the end of the strand of silk, they can unravel the entire cocoon in a single strand using this machine shown above. Then they use that silk to make things like shirts and neckties and handkerchiefs and silk embroidery.

The double cocoons can't be unraveled since there are two strands, so for those they stretch them out and use them to stuff duvet covers and things like that.

After watching the employees stretch it out, we got to try it ourselves.

And of course we can't do it nearly as well as they can, so we didn't stretch it out evenly. Missy ended up with a big handful of silk after we stretched it out, so Pierce teased her that she must get cold at night so she wanted more of the silk on her side :)

After that, of course, they tried to sell us everything under the sun that they can make out of silk. We didn't buy anything, but we did take a few pictures of stuff.

Those are duvet covers, they had all kinds of colors and patterns. Totally beautiful, but I can just see my little dogs' claws getting all over that.

Lee took this closeup of one of the patterns. Some of them were bold floral patterns, and they also had a lot of tone-on-tone designs with filigree and dragons and bamboo and stuff.

Here are two examples of the really expensive silk embroidery. If the pixiu was doing its job to get us lots more money, then Lee said he would have liked to get something like this. They had some really amazing pieces, and since they're silk, they kind of shine as you look at them from different angles. Then, of course, they had the dresses:

Beautiful, huh? I think they had a pattern book so you could pick out what kind of dress you would like and then what fabric, but we didn't want to stay too long to find out. We still had two more stops to make before the end of the day (yes, this is still our first day in Shanghai!!) so I'll have more pictures as soon as I can get through the next batch. Tata for now!


Giffysk8s said...

I love your blogging~I feel like I am in a history class! A fun history class, that is. :) That dragon boat is amazing, as are the silk dresses. That could be a costly trip!

Rick goes to Shanghai quite often and he really likes it. Glad you enjoyed it!

CCsMom said...

Oh, I could so see you in that red dress on the end. Interesting how the neckline is -- with the collar around your neck attached to the yoke of the dress. But oh, that tiger embroidery is gorgeous -- so detailed. I bought Adam a panda embroidery piece from ebay that was mounted in a frame that turned so you could also see the back -- because unlike our cross stitch, it was the same on the back as the front in reverse. I'm sure it was silk -- of pandas, of course. I'll have him read your blog so he will appreciate it more. The jade is absolutely beautiful. I'll be anxious to see your necklace!!! This is fascinating.

CCsMom said...

Oh, I wonder if that golden dragon is made of amber -- and that, I believe, is tree sap that's hardened and solidified and sometimes has things caught inside of it. It is gorgeous how the light shines through it.

Thoughts by B and M said...


Lee said...