The National Art Museum of China

Hi honey:

I must be getting too old. After that long day at the Forbidden City, I thought I would be OK after a good night rest.

I woke up really late at 9AM and yet I was still dead tired. I decided to take it easy for the day. I decided to stick to indoors places. You know, places where there is air conditioning. I decided to go to the National Art Museum of China. I walked past it the previous day on the way to Wangfujing.

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For breakfast, I went to the food court about 5 minutes walk from my hotel. It was a food court by the Guomao subway station. They have big floor to ceiling posters of their food plastered on the subway and I thought I go check it out. The food court was strangely located at the end of a deserted underground complex. There was nothing there except at the end of the corridor is the food court.

That food court was quite big. Only about three stalls were opened for breakfast. It was still early and they have not completely opened for lunch and dinner yet. I had half a mind of turning around but I did not know where else to go. I did not want to walk. I had enough of walking already the previous day!

I got the noodles above. The stall lady asked me if I want “la” which I thought she meant spicy. So I said yes, give me “la”. ┬áTurns out that she asked if I wanted pulled noodle. The noodles overall was OK. I like the noodles but did not care much for the so-so soup and beef slices. Like I said, the noodles in Beijing is much more tastier than those we have in Vancouver.

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I also got this pancake thing. Do you consider this jianbing? The way they prepared it looks the same except that they added a … flat version of yutiao (Chinese donut) in between with some sweet sauce. And eggs too. I like that.

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The stall owner was really friendly to me. She knew I was not local obviously. She asked that I try her home made yogurt. Am so glad I did.

All in all, the breakfast above was about $9.50 Canadian. Not cheap by Beijing standards. I was just comparing it to the 75 cents roadside breakfast I had the previous day.

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After breakfast, I took the subway to the National Art Museum of China. It was easy to locate as you can’t miss the building. It is located just a stone throw away from the head office of the people I was working with the previous week. So I kind of know this area a bit better than the rest and I know my bearings here.

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Entrance is free which you collect from the gate. The sign in English outside says that I need to show a passport to get in but I kept the passport in the safe in the hotel room. So I took the chance to show them my BC Driving License. I guess that worked even though I was not sure if they know what I was showing them. For all I care, I could have shown them my library card. They did not ask me any question and just passed me the entrance ticket.

I like this. It is free and it is air-conditioned …

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… and there are lots of seats in the museum.

I was so excited seeing that they had a section on seal carvings in display. But there was a problem. You see, EVERYTHING here is in Chinese and in Chinese only. About the only thing that is in English is the sign to the toilet. What a bummer.

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There were a lot of historical displays from recent history. It seems that the Chinese create a seal for every important occasion. And they keep the seals here. There were pictures of the seals used with US Presidents, Queen Elizabeth and so forth. I wish I could read Chinese!

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Most of the seals are really beautiful. Not just the engravings but also the holders in many different shapes, sizes and materials. I fancy getting one of these made in my name. You know what honey, maybe next time we are in Beijing, we could get one done that says “Ben-Sue-Beijing-2011” or something like that.

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I wanted to come here to learn about Chinese art and in particular Chinese painting. They are almost all in simplistic black and white ink painting, unlike the more illustrative western painting. Chinese paintings are almost like the extension to the art of calligraphy. You know, using just ink, brush and paper.

I noticed that their painting is hardly of people. There are some of animals (like horses) but mostly they are of scenes of hills and streams and trees.

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Many of the paintings have poems on them. They are as important as the painting itself as it extends the meaning of it. Can someone help translate the words above?

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Too bad I did not get much out of this visit. At least it is comfortable and cooling. Yeah, I wanted to sleep here but the girls watching over the gallery were all over the place. Anyway, it might not be a good idea because you know I sometimes (OK, fine … often) snores.

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OK, how about this one? Can one of you translate this for me?

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I sat there watching the little girl above sitting on a low stool, patiently reproduce one of the paintings. She was so sweet and her mum was watching and waiting from a distance. When the girl was done, the mum took a picture of her with her painting.

I had a closer look and indeed the work was really good for such a young girl. She was so sweet and polite when I told her that her drawing was very good. She said “xie xie” and skipped away with her mum.

So sweet. So beautiful. So talented.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. DonaldD

    On your post you are talking about some vendor trying to sell you water bottle for a buck, they are actually the ” recycle” bottle picked by street hawkers and refill it with tap water–if you ever wonder why the funny taste// Don’t buy the cheap water bottle and most of are fakes even they are with sealed caps, use only the bottles from your hotel room. Don’t eat food from street vendors as the meat get spolied easy as they don’t refrigerated their food. i was having same sickness when I start travelling to China few years ago. Be careful what you eat and drink in China. Food poisioning is common thing.

    1. Ben

      Hi DonaldD: You are right. Ever since I tasted a cheap bottle of water I threw that away. Instead I bought them from supermarkets. I have a habit of buying like a dozen or so bottles of drinking water whenever I travel and store them in the hotel room. I’ll bring along two bottles. It is much cheaper that way than to buy it in touristy spots. But as for food, I was quite reckless and I think my stomach could take it, like the locals. Growing up in Malaysia, I had meals in worse places. Cleanliness is all relative, I guess. If you grow up in a first world country your immune system might not be able to take the food in a third world country. Ben

    2. James

      In China or any other places, water bottle I buy it in store, local beer was so cheap I mostly drink beer in the evenings. I love their street food, there are so many verity and delicious, I never had any problem eating street food any where in China.

  2. grayelf

    That eggy dude sure looks like the “crepe” at O’Tray in Empire Ctr, right down to the you tiao-like crunchies they add…

  3. Jean

    I did not truly appreciate Chinese watercolour /ink paintings until I took a Chinese brush paintinig course over 15 yrs. ago. Plum blossom stroke, lotus leaf/flower stroke, bamboo stalk stroke… the traditional brush strokes …

    I dropped out of the course aftr the 3rd class..it was tough. I didn’t have the right rhythm and natural hand pressure to execute light, dark shading in 1 stroke.

    But then watercolour painting is not my strength…more acrylic and oils.

    Great photos. Yes to see the carved seals as an art form would be great.

    1. Ben

      Hi Jean: Am impressed that you even took up Chinese ink painting. I can imagine how tough it is. My mum used to make me write calligraphy in my early elementary school days and I hated it so much. Ben

    2. Ben

      Hi Jean: Just to let you know that all my emails to your email account bounced back. I think you need to take ben@chowtimes.com off your spam list or something. Ben

  4. Kirk

    Hi Ben – Jian Bing in Beijing seems to have changed according to my wife. When we visited we noticed that many places seem to now put a cracker in the middle instead of youtiao. In other cities they still do it the more traditional way.

    1. Ben

      Hey Kirk: I am honoured you are still checking chowtimes. I read your blog everyday too although I don’t ever comment. I love your travel series too. Ben

  5. Henry

    I’ve actually been reading your blog for a while now, though I’ve never actually commented until now. I saw something on nostalgic breakfast foods and decided to chime in a bit.

    Jian bing guo zi is actually a Tianjin breakfast dish. You tiao is called guo zi there, hence the name. It’s traditionally a green bean flour pancake with eggs, scallions, fermented tofu, hot sauce, and fermented flour sauce (using a literal translation there). The you tiao is sometimes replaced with the thin piece of deep fried dough; this variant is called a jian bing bao cui (thin and crispy), to which I believe is what Kirk was referring.

    You can actually get this at the 2F food court in President’s Plaza.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

    1. Ben

      Hi Henry: Yeah, the 2F food court in Richmond’s President Plaza was what Grayelf was talking about. I actually did make a post of that place (called O’Tray). Here is the link to my post: http://goo.gl/F8XgA Ben

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