Jessie tweets & chats her days away working in the social media and public relations departments of Tea. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Jessie moved to New York after college to work in the fashion industry. Still new to San Francisco, she's constantly discovering new sushi spots and hidden boutiques. She's still dreaming of her last trip to the Caribbean and hopes one day soon she can play on the beaches of Thailand.
We’ve all been there. We know that a screaming child on a quiet plane is never fun for anyone involved. But, what if the parent of the six-month old you’ve been sat next to starts off the flight with a bag of candy and a note like this…
We bet you’d laugh a little, take immediate pity on the parent traveling solo with little ones and sincerely thank them for the earplugs!
Friendly Sky Kit makes traveling with children a little easier on everyone – we’re such fans! This could also be a great DIY project with the family before your trip. Throw your child’s favorite candy into a bag with a pair of earplugs (the most important item), tie the baggies up and pack them for the flight. Make it more personal with a note explaining that this is baby’s first trip – Your neighbors will thank you and your trip may be a little easier. Offer a bag or two to your flight attendants - you never know when that speedy second snack may come in handy for a necessary distraction!
As a 7-year Beijing resident, I’m so excited to share more about discovering the best of the city that was the inspiration for Tea’s Fall/Winter 2013 Collection.
As Emily mentions in her introduction to the Fall/Winter Collection destination inspiration, “China is so big it’s hard to take it all in. The cities are huge, the palaces are massive…” which both the Busy Beijing Tee and the Traffic Jam Pajamas illustrate pretty well.
To take away any intimidation of visiting this great city, I’m thrilled to point you to the best kept secrets and hidden gems of what makes Beijing such an exciting and special place to visit.
Obviously, you want to make sure you visit Beijing’s greatest hits: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City Palace Museum, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. If you have private transportation sorted out and a great guide to help you make the most of your time in each place, you could easily discover all of those sites in two days.*
For culturally curious families who want to experience the best that Beijing has to offer, however, you’ll want to leave enough time to explore the off-the-beaten path sites and experience the city like a local.
Exploring Beijing’s Ancient Hutong Neighborhoods
The most important and locally unique activity you must save time to do is wandering through Beijing’s ancient hutong neighborhoods. Many of these historical neighborhoods have been torn down to make way for new modern developments, but a good number still remain in the city center.
A hutong literally means “alley,” and the hutong neighborhoods are labyrinths of alleys connecting Beijing’s traditional courtyard homes. In addition to homes, the hutongs house many different local businesses. Recently there has even been an upsurge in hip cafes, restaurants, and boutiques located in hutongs.
Wandering hutong neighborhoods, you can see residents living an integrated community street lifestyle that has been part of Beijing’s unique rhythm and spirit for centuries. You will see elderly residents playing mah jong, chatting outside while neighborhood kids play in the alleys, and various local vendors biking by, shouting the wares they sell.
Some of the most fun hutong neighborhoods to wander through are the ones surrounding the Drum and Bell Tower or the Lama Temple.
Vibrant Early Morning Park Culture
Early Beijing park culture is one of the most fun and unique experiences for visitors. Each morning, Beijing’s parks are vibrantly buzzing with activity like group tai qi, elderly men congregating with their caged bird pets, water calligraphy on the pavement, and women’s exercise groups.
One of the best parks to visit is Ritan Park in the Embassy District. Ritan Park is one of Beijing’s four ancient altar parks where the Emperor would go annually to make the appropriate sacrifices and rituals that would ensure peace and prosperity. Positioned symmetrically throughout Beijing–north, south, east, and west of the Forbidden City–Ritan Park is the sun altar park on the east.
The sun altar is still there, but nowadays you are more likely to find locals flying kites in the altar than stumble upon an imperial ceremony. Handpainted kite-making is a local craft, and taking the family to fly kites with locals in the ancient sun altar would be a great family memory and iconic Beijing experience.
China is not only a wonderful place to discover ancient history and culture but also a place alive with modern energy, creativity, and exuberance.
In the last few decades, China’s contemporary art scene has exploded on the international art stage. A great place to take the family to explore Chinese contemporary art is the 798 Art District, the inspiration for Tea’s Modern Dot Bubble Dress.
798 Art District used to be an old industrial factory complex located between the city center and the airport. Local Chinese artists started moving into the abandoned factories to create studios and galleries slowly followed. Now what you have is a full blown art district with many of the world’s top art galleries present.
798 is huge, with lots of open spaces to run through and outdoor art and sculptures for kids to play on. Among all the galleries, cafes, and shops in 798, you don’t want to miss Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA). UCCA is a great museum built by dedicated contemporary Chinese art collectors that also has many kid-friendly and kid centered activities.
Nearby, Caochangdi (not walkable, you need a car or taxi) has more galleries and studios with a lot less visitors than 798. If you go to Caochangdi, don’t miss the beautiful Three Shadows Photography Center, which is the premier spot to discover contemporary Chinese photography exhibitions.
As Tea notes in their Destination Inspiration introduction, China is an enchanting land of contrasts and we are sure you will have a memorable time discovering the fascinating city of Beijing where the energetic optimism Tea noted is palpable and a fascinating combination of ancient and modern awaits your adventures.
*For help designing customized private itineraries with local experts who have experience guiding young families visiting Beijing for the first time, I recommend contacting Stretch-a-leg Travel.
Another great resource for visiting families is http://www.beijing-kids.com/ and the related free publication, Beijing Kids, you can find in restaurants and cafes around town.
Charlene Wang is a 7-year Beijing resident who runs Tranquil Tuesdays, a Beijing-based Chinese social enterprise dedicated to showcasing China’s finest teas and rich tea culture. To learn more about discovering Chinese tea, teaware, and design please visit www.tranquiltuesdays.com
We’re so excited to share that for the seventh year in a row, we’re on the Inc. 5000 list for fastest-growing companies in America. We have the most amazing customers – thank you for supporting us year after year!
Things we found and want to share from this past week:
Tea Collection’s fall collection is inspired by the Chinese Art District. When we envision Chinese artworks, we think of delicate brush strokes making thin lines with black liquid paint. In our eyes, those abstract lines come together in the shape of one thing: a tiger and her stripes.
With the tiger being one of Asia’s most recognized species, we thought it fitting to put together our Tiger Collage as a nod to China’s art world, animal kingdom and of course, Tea’s newest collection.
WHAT YOU NEED:
• Tiger Template
• 12” x 12” Black and Blue cardstock
• 12” x 12” Orange cardstock
• Glue Stick
• Spray Fix
• X-acto Knife
One of our favorite publishers heard our fall collection was inspired by China and the next thing we knew, seven amazing children’s books were on our desk. We believe books are one of the easiest ways to introduce your children to new cultures. Today we’re sharing seven Barefoot Books that were inspired by Chinese culture as well and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
Little Leap Forward: Experience this coming-of-age tale that brings to life the time of the Cultural Revolution. A young boy growing up in the hutongs of China discovers the heartache of loving and having to let go when he captures a bird, only to discover that she will not sing in confinement. The first in Barefoot Books’ Young Fiction line, this story also includes beautiful full-color illustrations.
Stories from the Silk Road: Journey along the ancient trade route between East and West. The seven intriguing tales in this collection each feature an important city along the Silk Road, and are filled with adventure and drama, as the merchants, muleteers, spies and shepherds travel this exotic route.
We’re Riding On A Caravan: Join the caravan for an exciting yearlong trek along China’s ancient Silk Road. Following the rhyming, treasure-filled story are informational endnotes about the history of the Silk Road, the story of silk, important cities of China, and a full-spread map.
The Great Race: Race with the animals of the Zodiac as they compete to have the years of the Chinese calendar named after them. The excitement-filled story is followed by notes on the Chinese calendar, important Chinese holidays, and a chart outlining the animal signs based on birth years.
The Barefoot Book of Buddhist Tales: The Buddha taught that life is like a dream, yet real. The ways in which we may fruitfully engage with this mystery are playfully explored in numerous tales from the folk traditions of countries including India, China, Japan and Tibet. This is a collection of enthralling stories which illustrates various important aspects of Buddhist thought.
Lin Yi’s Lantern: Meet Lin Yi — a little boy with a big heart and a talent for bargaining. Tonight is the moon festival and he wants nothing more than a red rabbit lantern; but first he must buy the things his mother needs at the market. This heartwarming story shows the rewards of putting others first, and includes educational notes at the end about the Chinese moon festival, life in rural China, and the legend of the moon fairy.
Motherbridge of Love: This beautiful poem celebrates the bond between parent and child in a special way. Through the exchanges between a little Chinese girl and her mother, Motherbridge of Love offers a poignant and inspiring message to parents and children all over the world.
Nestled in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, Fiddlesticks is bursting with unique children’s toys and tons of Tea. Come explore Fiddlesticks and have a macaroon or two while strolling the quaint neighborhood in the heart of San Francisco. This month we chatted with Elizabeth, founder of Fiddlesticks.
Tea: How did you decide to take the leap and open your own store? How long has your store been in business?
Fiddlesticks: Ten years ago I opened my first store, Lavish. The focus was on home accessories and women’s clothing, with a small baby section. Over time the baby section grew as the demand for more kids items increased. The Tea Collection was one of our first brands we carried actually. I can remember that first collection and those Chinese sweaters like it was yesterday! About four years later, I decided to open a second store, Fiddlesticks – with the focus on all things kids. The neighborhood, Hayes Valley, was exploding in retail and it was ripe for a kid’s store. I knew I could fill that gap. So in the spring of 2007, I opened Fiddlesticks. We are six years old and going strong.
T: What is your favorite part of your day at the store?
FS: My favorite part of any day at Fiddlesticks is watching the kids interact with the merchandise – whether that be trying on shoes, playing with a new toy or putting an outfit together. It’s their reaction that fuels our future decisions in what and how to buy, and it’s their glowing squeals that make it absolutely fun to the core.
T: We know how special all of our stores are, what makes your store unique?
FS: Honestly, it’s our esthetic. I think at the core we are really good curators of all things kids and that is why customers keep coming back. Our individual attention to every customer – we work really hard to give everyone the attention and focus to ensure they have a really great experience. Our customer service definitely sets us apart from others.
T: At Tea, we “Go There”, how do you share in that mission at your store and/or in your life?
FS: We have a great deal of customers who are dedicated to Tea and come in only wanting to see Tea. Most of them know the story, but for those who are new and haven’t had a Tea experience, we spend a good deal of time with them educating them about the production and the design process. The more we are able to discuss and share with them, the more they are vested in the collection. And, as you can imagine, once they try Tea they tend to be lifers. T: Woo hoo!
T: How do you balance it all? What tricks can you offer us?
FS: I have a very dedicated team at Fiddlesticks. Team being the key word, it’s not I but WE at Fiddlesticks. Kassie keeps us up-to-date on our website and in all things social media, while Caitlin focuses on the toys and books making sure we have the most current merchandise. And, I am mainly the clothing buyer and everything else that happens behind the scenes. TOGETHER we create Fiddlesticks and somehow keep it balanced.
Traded all over the world at the height of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Blue and White Porcelain came to be known outside of China as “Ming Ware” or quite simply “china” as an ode to the land of its origin.
The most prized Blue and White Porcelain didn’t come from just anywhere in China, though. It all came from one place known as the mecca of all porcelain craftsman and artisans for over 1000 years: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi.
Porcelain from Jingdezhen has come to represent the pinnacle of Chinese craftsmanship, as China’s most skilled porcelain and pottery masters have perfected their craft in the city for centuries. Aspiring porcelain artists continue to flock to Jingdezhen to join the artisan community and study at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute, China’s premier center of ceramic higher learning.
Photo credit: Frank B. Lenz
History of Jingdezhen
Since 557 CE, Jingdezhen has been the center of fine porcelain art, crafting, innovation, and production in China. The city is home to the Imperial Kilns that fired the porcelain used and treasured in Beijing’s Forbidden Palace.
In fact, Jingdezhen’s name is connected to its imperial ties. The Song Dynasty Emperor Jing De (who reigned from 1004-1007) so admired the porcelain created in Jingdezhen that he issued an imperial edict to honor the manufacture of porcelain. The town became known as “Jing De Town” (zhen 镇 in Chinese means town) in his honor.
In 1267, the legendary Kublai Khan established a Ceramic Bureau with 80 imperial craftsman. During the Ming Dynasty, official kilns designated for imperial porcelain production were established along with the Imperial Porcelain Bureau in Jingdezhen.
In addition to regular sacrificial offerings to the Chinese diety protecting ceramic production, in the Ming Dynasty the emperor started dispatching a royal eunuch to oversee ceramic production in Jingdezhen on behalf of him.
Chinese Emperors took their Jingdezhen porcelain seriously!
Jingdezhen still continues to carry on the legacy of fine Chinese porcelain craftsmanship today. The pride this small town in southern China takes in porcelain crafting can be seen in the visitor friendly restorations of the Ancient Kilns and in the small details, like the porcelain stop lights downtown or the porcelain trash cans at historical sites (really!).
Photo credit: Tranquil Tuesdays
Visitors to Jingdezhen can see how craftsman continue to use the same techniques Chinese porcelain traditions have relied on for centuries at demonstrations in the Ancient Kilns. In the pictures above, you can see a photo taken in the 1920’s and one I took two years ago. As you can see, not much has changed!
To discover what is new and fresh in the ancient town of Jingdezhen, visitors can also visit many different studios and galleries of younger talents based in Jingdezhen who seek to bring a modern twist to China’s ancient porcelain art.
Photo credit: Tranquil Tuesdays
For anyone fascinated with Chinese porcelain crafting traditions, a pilgrimage to Jingdezhen is the place for you! If you want to learn more about Jingdezhen and China’s unique design and art traditions, read more here.
Charlene Wang regularly travels to Jingdezhen, China to work with the emerging Chinese artisans who handcraft Tranquil Tuesdaysauthentically beautiful and exclusive teaware collection.