Jiaozi and Shadow Puppets
Bob and I arranged to meet Tuesday morning for a shopping trip to the Liulichang hutong. This is a well-known and historical shopping area, containing several famous establishments of writing and painting accoutrements, antiques, local crafts, and the like. Bob wanted to pick up textile and embroidery pieces for his gallery in Nashville, and we first went to a shop he had visited on previous trips. They had some lovely collars and skirt pieces from SW China ethnic groups (which of course we had seen on last year's trip), and, seeing that we knew what we were looking at, they started to bring out the "good stuff." And tea. I guess we spent an hour, very enjoyably, looking through everything. Most fun was an assortment of ear warmers (cotton "sleeves" that slip over the ears and were richly decorated with colorful embroidered motifs). I fell in love with a set of bats on a black background: subtle, elegant and beautifully rendered. And good luck, of course, since the Chinese word for bat ("fu") is the same as the word for luck.
Ear Warmers with Bats
Lucky Chinese ear warmers
Mulan Shadow Puppet Bob also purchased a couple of large wooden puppets with lovely silk costumes. The shop owner identified the male puppet as a famous Song dynasty general (she was surprised that I knew about the Yang clan). And no, they did not have a puppet version of the general's fourth son. After Bob had made his selections, he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to look at, so I said I'd like a closer look at some of the shadow puppets in teh window. Some were new and brightly colored, while the older ones were less showy but more intricate in design. Puppets for the nobility were made of cow skin, while the common people used donkey skin. I bought a pair of figures, Mulan and her General ("or boyfriend," laughed the shopkeeper). The puppet heads could be removed, so Mulan could appear in women's garments or military armor, depending on the scene of the story.

Then, as Bob said, the fun part: bargaining! I left that to him. I did suggest a lower price for my puppets, but they offered to throw in a dragon puppet instead, so I accepted. We both left quite happy, although Bob did need to buy an extra suitcase at the Merry Mart for his acquisitions (mostly the books, though). We stopped into the calligraphy shop, which had some beautiful stuff, including an inkstone about the size of my living room. If I ever own a huge mansion, with an enormous foyer, that's what I want to place in the entrance; it was absolutely stunning. There were also ink sticks carved so exquisitely I can't imagine actually using them for writing.
Mulan shadow puppet
Hungry after shopping, we went to a little hole in the wall eatery and feasted on dumplings, cucumber salad, and beer. This was the start of the "great food" portion of this trip. Although we had some very good meals with the group, I preferred the cuisine of the southwest provinces (land of chilis) that we were able to sample last summer. And Shanghai, of course, both during my syping adventures and for our fabulous class farewell dinner there. (Mao Mao had pulled out all the stops for that one!) But I digress.
After lunch we returned to the hotel. I was meeting the Beijing Su You Peng fans that evening at seven, so I plopped on the bed to watch a few hours of YTTLJ and DMGZ before showering. As it turned out, Ying Ying and her friends arrived an hour early, so I was just getting out of the shower and throwing on clothes when they rang.

Next: Suyoupenging in Beijing

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