With the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year, only a few weeks away, here are some suggestions of interesting gifts that you can take home for your friends and family. Guangzhou Souvenir Street is showcasing some of the best local handicrafts and specialties that make great keepsakes and souvenirs.
Covering an area of well over 1,000 square meters in the Liuhua Exhibition Center, the souvenir street currently has on display many time-honored, traditional brands of Guangzhou, ranging from food and drink to art and medicine. Below is a small selection of some of the many items on show.
The pale green packaging of Cantonese Wanglaoji is instantly recognizable all over the province. According to traditional Chinese medicine, its secret formula has a cooling effect on the body, and is especially popular during the hot, humid summer. The drink is also available in granule form for easy transportation.
Luzhou Laojiao Canton Tower Liquor
In recognition of Guangzhou's highest skyscraper, Luzhou Laojiao has released a special edition bottle to celebrate the iconic, hourglass-shaped landmark building. One of the oldest alcohol brands in China, dating back to 1573 in the Ming Dynasty, the liquor is well-known for its sharp aroma of fermented peaches, but be warned, at more than 50 percent proof, that it is not a tipple for lightweights.
While most of us are familiar with delicious Italian dry-cured ham, do you know that Guangzhou also has its own, very distinctive version. During the lean winter months, Chinese mothers would traditionally preserve streaky pork, doused liberally in soy sauce and Shaoxing cooking wine. The meat was then left to dry-cure in the cold northern breeze, before being used to accompany a wide selection of popular rice dishes.
Take home some of the tastiest sweet treats.
Alongside the more well-known soy sauce brands and pickle varieties, fermented beancurd and fermented spicy soya beans have long been popular among Guangzhou residents.
Red Chinese ginseng root has long been an all-encompassing superfood according to Asian physicians. In Guangdong, it is cooked up in a tonic soup that is particularly popular among older residents.
Cantonese opera is an art form that features music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics and acting. Most of the plots are based on Chinese history and famous Chinese classics. Also, the culture and philosophies of the Chinese people can be seen in the opera work. Virtues (like loyalty, love, patriotism and faithfulness) are often reflected by the opera.
Guangzhou has always been famous for its artisans and craftsmen. Especially prized examples are exquisite carving, enamelware and fine embroidery.
Olive pit carving
Highly skilled craftsmen can spend weeks or even months, meticulously carving delicate patterns to create miniature works of art. The olive pit itself is an ideal organic medium, each one carefully selected and stored for a minimum of five years, to ensure that it will not split or crack.
Famed for its vivid colors and striking compositions, Cantonese enamelware was one of the most popular exports during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). Highly trained artists first sketched the designs onto fine white porcelain, before applying bright pigments, which were then heat-cured at a sintering furnace. During the Ming Dynasty three-color ceramics were popular, which later developed into five-color designs as technology improved in the Qing Dynasty.
The Pearl River Delta has long been renowned for its exquisite embroidery. Lifelike images, rich textures and elegant colors complement the intricate stitchwork. Especially prized is the double-sided embroidery, which shows identical designs on both sides, a technique that dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Cantonese (Guangzhou) embroidery, together with Su (Jiangsu) embroidery, Xiang (Hunan) embroidery and Shu (Sichuan) embroidery, are the four major schools of embroidery in China.
Cantonese palace lanterns
For more than 600 years, Cantonese artisans have been sending intricately carved lanterns as tribute gifts to the imperial palace. From rosewood carving to beautifully hand-painted glass, a complex 10-step process is required to assemble these traditional lighting fixtures. Apprentices must spend many years in training before they are able to create such impressive works of art.
Interaction with artists
Alongside all the souvenirs, visiting artists and craftsmen will also be available to discuss the details of their handiwork, and even show visitors some of their special techniques. Many of them are eager to pass on their skills to the younger generations, and are actively looking for talented individuals that can be taken on as student apprentices.
Guangzhou Souvenir Street
Add: Hall 7, Liuhua Exhibition and Trade Center, 117 Liuhua Lu, Yuexiu district
Transportation: Metro Line 2, Yuexiu Park Station, Exit C
Source: Life of Guangzhou
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