PALM FANS 蒲扇
Depending on where you are, it’s near impossible to survive the Beijing heat without a fan. Plain in looks, rough and simple in its craft, a palm fan (see above) is nevertheless the most perfect and functional choice for those in want of a delicate cooling. Made of palmetto leaves and straw, palm fans have long been a summer essential in many a rural household. The fan’s rough beauty has also recently been rediscovered as a natural alternative to the delicate, yet industrially produced, paper and cloth fans that abound.
COLLECTABLE WALNUTS 文玩核桃
You see it sometimes in China, a taxi driver perhaps, taking 10 minutes downtime and gently playing with his nuts—his walnuts that is. Wenwan walnuts have been collectors’ items since at least the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). Once a plaything of aristocrats and noblemen, today almost anyone in China is able to try their hand at the ancient art of walnut playing or collecting. Two walnuts are gently rotated in the hands, where they are believed to stimulate numerous acupuncture points, improve blood-flow, increase longevity, and even impart spiritual satisfaction. For those who have spun walnuts, it has a certain meditative quality. In recent years there has been a bit of a revival in walnut collecting, and they can trade for tens of thousands of RMB per pair. The value of a pair of walnuts is dependent on age, size, texture, and color, and a perfect pair is carefully selected, cleaned, and varnished. But, only through hand polishing can they reach that perfectly smooth shine. The most important characteristic for a pair of walnuts, however, is symmetry: a rich-red, beautifully veined walnut of plump size is worth little unless matched with the perfect partner.
TEA PETS 茶宠
Dogs love to salivate over your leftovers, but what about leftover tea? Well, fear not, you can simply give it to your tea pets. These small statues are a tea lover’s best friends, and they require minimal attention, even less than a goldfish. Often made of brown earth pottery, they are part of a tea set and are taken care of by dousing or brushing with tea. A well-raised tea pet should have smooth skin and a fragrant tea aroma. Of course, for you, this new addition to your tea drinking routine could just be a way to nurture your inner child and play with an interesting little toy at tea time.