Day 6

Seal School: Day 6

Sunday 6 November 2011
Temple of the City God

Today I decide to make another attempt to find the Temple of the City God. This time I follow a winding walkway, the width of a street, up the hill from Hefang Street to the highest point where I finally find the Temple. After paying the [30 RMB] entrance fee I climb the stairs to the top of the tower for an amazing view out over the lake and city. Since I haven’t had breakfast, on the way downstairs I stop in at the Temple’s tea house. I ask the girl behind the counter what she recommends—since I can’t read the menu—and order tea with snacks ($11.89 along with the Temple entrance fee). The plates just keep arriving until I ask her if this is supposed to be all for me?

My teatime snack includes:

  • Plate 1: egg rolls (rice in the shape of an eggroll with wrap and possibly deep fried)
  • Plate 2: corn on the cob, purple yam
  • Plate 3: dried tofu (not spicy, but decorated with peppers)
  • Plate 4: baby tomatoes, watermelon, what looks like cantaloupe
  • Plate 5: small spotted tea-eggs
  • Plate 6: boiled peanuts, decorated with peppers
  • Dragon Well Tea in a glass with a large separate pot of hot water
  • 4 small bowls of candy in plastic wrap

Back at the bottom of the hill I walk down Hefang Street with the intention of returning to the Rongbaozhai art book store. On the way I notice that the seal stone street vendor’s cart is closed, even though it’s the middle of the day. Maybe he’s afraid I’d come back with the police to demand a refund, or maybe he’s using the money I gave him yesterday to take a long holiday. Later, when I find out how much stones cost at the art market, this will turn out to be my biggest embarrassment of the trip and I vow not to tell anyone how much I payed the street vendor for these stones. At the bookstore I buy six more books, including one each on the famous Qing dynasty seal artists Wu Changshuo, Deng Shiru, and Ding Jing. I also get books on fengni (ancient clay impressions), seal stones, and a model calligraphy copy of the Qianziwen (the 1,000 Character Classic). Upstairs, in their art supply store, I buy a seal ink container, two brushes, two more seal-carving knives in smaller sizes than the day before, a small water spoon for calligraphy, eight small boxes of paint chips in different colors, and a good set of seal ink in a container which costs $84.87. All together I spend $195.83 and the people behind the counter seem very happy to have me back in the store. The owner asks about my interest in seals and I explain that I am a student at the university. Knowing that Wang Gongyi, my teacher back in Portland, is well-known in China, I decide to try a little name dropping. He knows her well but is confused since he believes her to live in Hangzhou and doesn’t know that she has been living in Portland for several years. After I get back to campus I stop in La Briioche Doree for some bread for later.

In the afternoon I use the phone at Shifu’s desk to call Eva, a friend of Wang Gongyi. Eva works at the university and is making arrangements for me to meet with Liu Jiang who is now retired but who had been Wang Gongyi’s professor and a noted seal carver.

6:40 PM – I go to the campus “Lavazza Coffe” shop for iced coffee ($5.54) and wifi so I can email Laurie Balmuth to thank her for loaning me her iPad so I could stay connected to the internet.

In the evening I explore more of the city and walk back to school along the edge of the “scenic west lake.” The sun is just going down and small pleasure boats are cruising or paddling over the water. Willow trees hang down over the stone retaining wall all along the shore. Small bats fill the air, swooping to eat bugs. It’s what I would call picturesque. After I get back to the dorm I do some laundry.

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