It was an early start for our Day travelling to Nanjing, as we were going by train and had been advised that the stations are more like airports. Xi'an North Station is about the size and shape of Stansted, with boarding gates and baggage scanners. It also didn't seemingly have any coffee outlets, much like everywhere we've been so far in China.
The trains themselves are super smooth and very fast, clocking up to 303km/h on our 1100km journey east to Nanjing. We really enjoyed seeing the development of towns and cities, infrastructure projects that have been and are being built, and also the rural areas in between, with many people working the fields by hand and only being assisted occasionally by machinery.
We were met in Nanjing by Jade, a representative of Jiangsu Artall Cultural Industries Co.Ltd, our partners for the project, who kindly took us to our hotel and made sure we we settled in. Nanjing is a much more western feeling city, and reminded Stuart somewhat of Melbourne, it was markedly different to Xi'an. A problem that arose in the first evening was that most food outlets, especially small shops and street vendors only take digital payments, through WeChat or AliPay, and won't take cash. We use WeChat to keep in contact with our Chinese friends and the artists who were in Yantai, but were unable to add any financial function to our accounts as we don't have a Chinese mobile number or Bank card. So we could only eat in places that accept hard cash.
On our first full day we walked to Jiangning Imperial Silk Manufacturing Museum, which was designed by an architect that works for Artall. It has connecting courtyard, pools and gardens and many different galleries. We watched a film documenting the development of the Chi-pao, one style of traditional women's clothing, and the way that the styles have developed with western influences. The brocade exhibition was also very interesting and highlighted the importance of the Nanjing cloud patten which forms part of China's Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is so named because it is as 'beautiful as the cloud'.
Downstairs there are also two large brocade Jacquard looms made from wood and bamboo, one of which was being operated by two women. One of the women was sitting by the beam threading the weft colours and one was sitting up high pulling combinations of pulleys to control the weft. Both were working in synchronisation with each other and were working the complex procedures from memory, which captivated a small audience and we recorded this. This method of weaving cannot be replaced by machines and the operators can only produce 5-6cm in one day, giving rise to the quote 'an inch of brocade, an inch of gold'. We also visited the museum shop selling contemporary silk including garments particularly from Suzhou.
In the afternoon we made our way to the Confucius Temple, purposely walking down a few of the back streets in the Wuyi District of Nanjing to observe daily life. We saw many people making the most of the last day of Golden Week, playing chess and Ma Jong, resting on benches or shopping in the Temple Market near Wuyi Alley. The temple itself was positioned next to the Qinhuai River and Wende Bridge and was a popular spot for an evening perambulation with many Chinese tourists sampling the restaurants, rickshaws and entertainment. There was a lot of red in the temple with the women performing a ceremony dressed in red silk robes, red lanterns and red carpets, symbolising good luck and happiness.
One of the main reasons for coming to Nanjing was to meet our partners from Jiangsu Artall Cultural Industries Co. Ltd, who have supported the project from the beginning and helped us to make it happen. Our main contact Jade suggested that we meet them on at their gallery on Aitao Road, for the opening ceremony of their show 'Encounter Indigo Dyeing'. As well as meeting some professors and artists, we were able to see a great range of work that offered a fascinating insight into traditional and contemporary use of indigo dyeing in China. Pieces included stitched printed embroidered cloth, shorts, dresses, books and even coffee cup holders.
Jade then gave us a guided tour of Artall Arts and Crafts Collection, which included some impressive carved rosewood and Jade pieces, lacquer work, a teapot collection, calligraphy, Chinese painting and embroidery. We were fortunate to meet with contemporary silk designer Mr Ye in his studio, take tea and to see and talk about his work. He had a display including an Emperor's robe and other pieces for inspiration. He told us that he buys silk made in Suzhou and focuses on colour and repetition based on traditional motifs. We also, visited the studio of a painter, where we saw a series of dreamy watercolour paintings reminiscent of the view of the river from the window. Later we enjoyed a fabulous fish lunch nearby with Mr Ye, Miss Du and Jade, giving us much needed time to talk about the future of the project and our partnership, which all made significant and positive progress.
On Wednesday after buying some figs from a street seller with a yoke we took the Metro to the Nanjing Museum. Like most of the museums, the building is of national and regional importance with a collection of many different things relating to the Province of Jiangsu. This collection goes as far back as 350,000 years with the appearance of Nanjing ape man and rice cultivation c. 6000BC marking the beginning of China's agricultural revolution. Early silk finds included several simple neolithic pottery spinning wheels. The museum charts silk development through the Zhang and Zhou Dynasties, Wu and Yue Warring States period, Hang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Quin Dynasties each with their developing technology, cultural significance, changing styles and influences. Particular importance was placed on examples of local Yunjin brocade silk, which was included on the representative list of 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity' by UNESCO in 2009. Other intangible crafts playing an important role in the areas heritage included folk literature, dance, music and plays. There were a lot of examples of silk garments from throughout these periods plus other accessories such as fans and parasols.
After a long time exploring the gallery we caught the Metro south to Wudingmen Station and took a slow stroll around the narrow alleys which were full of street sellers, artist studios and shops. Jianzi Alley and Santiaoying were particularly interesting, with contrasting architecture, soundscapes and social activities. We couldn't find this in our guide books or maps but it's well worth a visit.