Friday, August 21, 2015

香格里拉藏族黑陶 :: 尼西乡

The route down to Nixi Village. 

In Tibet and Zhongdian, you'd have seen the black clay utensils at the restaurants or in the homes. In this region, the black clay pots, pans, basins, plates, cups, teapots, vessels, vases, etc, have been made by potters from Zhongdian's Nixi Village the same way for the past 1200 years. (尼西黑陶) The utensils are intended for daily use in Tibetan homes, with the raw clay of brown and white drawn from the surrounding mountains. The black color isn't painted on. It's a result of the way the pottery pieces are baked in the kiln without exterior coatings of glaze or colored ceramic chips.

We went out to Nixi Village to visit its pottery workshops. It was certainly a scenic drive. Chuckled as we passed by a defunct ski slope and resort. It opened to fanfare in 2007/2008. But it has since closed. Really, the operators should have done their homework and known that the snow in this region isn't the sort of powder snow suitable for skiing. What an utter waste of resources. The poor trees chopped down for an exercise in futility.

A teapot with uhh poor-quality
but refreshing raw pu'er.
Along the way, there're a number of cooperatives/shops you could stop at to buy the pieces or eat from them in the form of a hotpot. The chicken hotpot (土鸡火锅) is insanely popular. It's chicken. I passed on it. Although that chicken is lean and doesn't hold much meat. It's kinda sweet. As free-range and kampung as it gets.

There're now approximately 120 families of potters practicing their craft in the village. Each family of potters has its unique markings or designs to differentiate their finished pieces. Occasionally, white bits of porcelain or whatever stones would be laid within the clay as decorations. They use the simplest of tools to shape the clay and mark them. Some families have open kilns, but recently, to reduce pollution, they've built a closed kiln in the village to fire all the finished products.

We were invited into one of the spacious home-workshops of a pair of father-and-son. They specialized in making claypots and its stands. Visitors could also join them in trying their hand in making something. Not a structured session for sure. Not quite a classroom. But it's an easy flow of 'if you want to try'. None of us had any skill in moulding clay and would do better to quietly stand and appreciate the seeming ease as the men knead their vessels into existence. Such ease could only come from years of experience and daily practice.

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