It is said that very few things are more awe inspiring in China during the spring than the Golden Rape flowers of Wuyuan county and the ancient porcelain pottery still being made today in the village of Jingdezhen. Actually I’m not sure if anyone has ever said that, but it sounds nice, and the aformentioned sights are pretty cool, so here I am to talk about them.
A group of 10 of us hired a private bus to shuttle from Shanghai out to Jingdezhen for a day of hiking and soaking up the local handmade porcelain shops that its known for. In fact one of the villages we visited had several elderly men and women who had been making pottery since they were teenagers…..and they were well into their great grandparent years. They still employ techniques used in the early days, with everything being done sans electricity. They use just about every extremity of their body to move the potting wheel and carve the bow all at the same time. They were making those things with impressive efficiency, likely to be sold and exported as the fine hand made porcelain dishes they are. Stacks of freshly hand molded bowls lined the staging area, each one nearly identical to the other. But they don’t just make bowls, you name it and they can make it. Not only that, but they can custom paint it for you, pack it up and ship it directly to your doorstep after its been kiln dried, for a small extra charge. Size didn’t seem to be a factor either as some of the bowls could have doubled as small swimming pools. We moseyed around the village for awhile and learned how to tell the difference between porcelain and plain old pottery. It’s just like how you tell the difference between glass and crystal, just wet your finger and go around the rim of the bowl. If it rings you got the good stuff.
After that we jetted off to another part of town where the true artists get a chance to express their creativity amongst dozens of little shops comprising their local art district. This sweet little area boasts some of the most original art I’ve seen in China thus far. These aren’t your typical mountain scenes or bamboo trees drawn with black water color, but real artists making real sculptures from real cool ideas. It’s a great area to spend an afternoon talking to the locals and having a cup of coffee while you peruse through the stores, each one offering something different from the next. Which is a breath of fresh air if you’ve spent time in China, where you often find the same stuff over and over again.
After that we whisked off to Wuyuan county to the small water village of Likeng. Upon our initial arrival (in the pouring) rain, this place looked like a gold mine. And it was, lots of small waterways running through the village and locals meandering about doing their daily routine. But then the next morning, buses of Chinese tourists swarmed in crowding the already narrow walkways lining the river roads. It was definitely unexpected, but we still got to see some great views of the village, as well as take a sweet little hike outside a few kilometers where we finally escaped the red-hatted tour groups. Out in the country side is where we saw the amazing views of the Golden Rape flowers, which is the main reason people flock to this area. We came just a tad early as the flowers weren’t quite in full bloom, but it was still beautiful nonetheless.
If you are making your way through central China, definitely put this place, or one of the many villages in Wuyuan county, on your ‘must see’ list. The best time to go is in March when they are in full bloom. Hostels and cheap hotels are in the area, but you may have to book in advance during the spring time as literally dozens of busloads of tourists come each day. Check out the pics below and see for yourself!