History at close quarters

By Xu Lin and Sun Ruisheng ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-10-26 07:45:33

History at close quarters

A street stall sells local sweet cakes in Pingyao. [Photo by Wang Wenlan/China Daily]

It is interesting to see recreations of ancient Chinese court trials in the court hall every day. Dressed in traditional costumes, performers take on the roles of prosecutors and defendants speaking in local dialects. Then when the performer playing the role of the county magistrate makes his decision, he throws a black token from the desk to the ground and announces his judgment. Red tokens are used for the death penalty.

The last building of the yamen is the Fairy Fox Tower with a history of more than 600 years. The county magistrate would have simple meals, drink tea and treat his superiors there. He worshipped and enshrined the fairy fox on the second floor of the tower because it was believed that the fairy would guard the official seal and ensure that he had a successful career.

In the past, Pingyao's young women would get a set of lacquer ware as dowry when they got married.

The best place to learn about this traditional handicraft is the Pingyao Lacquer Ware Arts Museum.

Common patterns painted on lacquer ware are animals and mythological and legendary characters. The cats painted on the lacquer ware are so vivid that you can even see their fine hair. It takes about half a year to finish a common cosmetic case.

There are also lacquer cabinets, tables and screens there.

As part of the production process, the unfinished item would be placed in the shade for a long time for it to dry after the lacquering was done on the elegant basswood. It would then go through painting and polishing.

When we visited, several female workers were using sandpaper to rub down a cupboard door with an elegant phoenix pattern on it.

After doing that for an hour, they use a lump of human hair to polish it for half an hour.

Then, they brush sesame oil on it and rub it with brick dust, and then with French chalk in the last step.

The more the article is polished, the brighter it gets. It is supposed to look like a mirror after all the polishing is done.

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