Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur (KL) has a variety of architecture within its area. A fusion of its cultural heritage, their dominant religion and architectural advancement in contemporary designs.

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The majestic Petronas Towers or Petronas Twin Towers stand high in the middle of the city bearing its iconic post-modern architectural design that identifies KL among any other city skylines. It also remains to be the tallest twin towers in the world!

I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring the city, so here are a few snapshots from my last visit:

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Melbourne: Collins St x St Patrick’s Cathedral

In the arts and fashion capital of Australia, it is expected to see a long stretch of little Paris at the eastern side of Collins St, which is locally referred to as “Paris End”. Collins St. is major street in Central Melbourne that is notable for its history. It is still the home to all major designer and prestige brands, high-end retailers, and it used to be the centre of finance in Australia. The original architecture of every building is mostly preserved like any other streets in the city of Melbourne.

Walking along Collins St. towards St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I snapped a handful shots of the glamorous Collins St post-edited with creamy, vintage-looking effect as a reminiscent of its early history.

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Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei

It is such a privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a major international exhibition featuring the late pop icon Andy Warhol and political artist Ai Weiwei. Being the two of the most significant artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, I was so thrilled when I first heard the news (a year before the start of the exhibition) that the National Gallery of Victoria has teamed up with The Andy Warhol Museum, in cooperation with Ai Weiwei, to organise such event.

The major exhibition explores the influences of both artists in modern art and contemporary life, which focuses on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between the two artists’ practices. Due to transportation, gallery’s area and other limitations to consider, not all iconic artworks of the artists have been exhibited at NGV for this particular event. Nevertheless, over 300 artworks of both artists’ significant contributions that delivered evocative messages were curated, which lead to my cultivation towards their remarkable life-long journeys. (National Gallery of Victoria)

I’ll start exploring the journey of Andy, who’s art I’m the least a fan of amongst the two. Ai’s extensive, massive and evocative installations beat Andy’s flat, complacent and mass-produced paintings. Ai’s works cover as far back as Ancient China up to the latest societal issues. But to be fair, Andy’s audacity and unconventional art practices have defined a new era of revolutionary artists and may have majorly contributed to Ai’s bold, dissident style.

Andy Warhol

andyAndy Warhol carrying a Brillo Soap Pads Box photograph by Billy Name

I first heard of Andy Warhol when I got into Advertising. I wasn’t talking about the time I majored in the field in college, but the time I got really interested in the history and admired the glory days of the industry back in mid-40’s. (cue Mad Men’s theme – TV Series) One of Andy’s famous paintings is called the Campbell Soup Cans (1962) series in which he hand-painted each can of the product, arranged each variety according to its date of release, and observed uniformity through merchandising in grocery shelves.

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The Campbell Soup Cans (1962) is the epitome of Andy’s style when it comes to paintings. Detailed, commercial, low-cost, and mass-produced, similar to the popular products he took inspirations from. His silkscreen medium allow him and his assistants to instantly produce similar huge paintings in a short period of time.

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Another famous series of paintings by Andy is his tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe, which he created after the iconic actress’ death. He used a single photograph from the 1953 film Niagara as reference to re-create an entire series as a form of “..memorial and as a reflection of the media’s insatiable appetite for celebrity and tragedy.” (NGV Label of The Three Marilyns 1962)

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The Marilyn Diptych (1962) contains fifty images of Marilyn Monroe. Twenty-five images on the left are brightly coloured while the other twenty-five are in black and white, that suggests the relation between the celebrity’s life and death. The particular painting above is currently owned by Tate and unfortunately was not part of the NGV Exhibit.

IMG_6169Andy Warhol – Filmography 

Most people would associate Andy with the expression “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and his popular talk show “Fifteen Minutes” which aired from 1985-1987. Through my readings, I’ve seen at least three different interpretations for this famous expression:

  1. German art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh suggests that Andy’s style invalidates the hierarchies worthy to be represented, and once abolished, will be an opportunity for everyone to be famous; Or
  2. Fifteen Minutes represent the limited time a celebrity can only be famous; Or
  3. Due to the technological advancement and level of accessibility of today’s society, anyone can actually be virtually famous. (Wiki: Fifteen Minutes of Fame)

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I also came across different articles refuting the expression’s origin to be the words of Andy. The critics have suggested that the famous phrase was actually taken from the text of an exhibition brochure written by the curator rather than Andy himself. He tried to honestly confess the truth through interviews but it was too late. The society has already branded the expression as his and still continue to do so today.

Screen Tests (1964)

Throughout his career, celebrities, poets, musicians, socialites and other personalities posed for a short film at his legendary studio in Manhattan, the Silver Factory. The films capture the actions of the subjects at natural state and let the viewers interpret whatever narrative they desire.The Silver Factory has attracted many prominent people and has become a space for Andy’s social scene. In a span of two years, Andy has shot over 500 Screen Tests, which he prolonged to imbue a dreamlike stillness. Some of these prominent people include: Cass Elliot, Ann Buchanan, Bob Dylan, Donyale Luna, Billy Linich and Jane Holzer.

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Silkscreen Paintings of Mao (1970’s)

Andy’s repetitive paintings of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong portrays media’s proliferations of the image and advertising’s promotion of consumers’ desire and identification. Andy created these paintings during the height of cultural revolution in China that has been a global media spotlight. Andy’s numerous works of Mao portray him as a pop-cultural icon during his time.

Andy’s other silkscreen paintings throughout his career that defines today’s definition of pop-culture.

The core of Andy’s career is the portrayal of American’s consumerism: Inexpensive, low-cost, mass-produced, charismatic and popular. His means and the final products of his works both satisfy his core, which are clearly seen through his inspirations and the media he utilised.

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Andy’s painting of Coca-Cola first appeared in 1961. Six years later, he coated Coca-Cola bottles with silver paint as representation of source material. Three years more,  Coca-Cola Company responded with a cease and desist letter when he expanded his project to 100 bottles and filled it with his own You’re In / Eau d’Andy’ (1970). Get it? You’re In…

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Andy did not only focus on the glamorous lifestyle of popular products and celebrities. One of his thought provoking artwork tackles the clash of American Dream and violence in America. Incorporating a tabloid style, gloomy and sombre, Andy replicated the photograph from a newspaper with a headline ‘Did a leak kill … Mrs McCarthy and Mrs Brown?’ referring to the two women killed due to expired canned tunas. In Tunafish Disaster (1963), Andy portrayed how consumer products actually failed its consumers.

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In Silver Clouds (1966) and Cow Wallpaper (1966), Andy expands his artistic style to a theatrical scale by offering an immersive experience that encourages participation through floating metalised polyester films propelled by air currents floating from the walls into space itself. This particular installation exemplifies his fascination with serial production and repetition of pop-cultural imagery. Andy’s deployment of modern manufacturing techniques served as an introduction to a whole new era of art installations.

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Ai Weiwei

A Chinese contemporary artist and activist, I first heard of Ai Weiwei during the preparation of Beijing 2008 Olympics when he collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron in designing The Birds Nest.

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However, my interest in Ai Weiwei’s life only began in 2011 when the international media caused a stir on his arrest at the Beijing International Airport. Initially reported as arrest due to incomplete presentation of documentation for travel, the media uncover his alleged tax evasion case. Ai Weiwei has been known for his online presence writing social commentary and criticising government policies aside from sticking to his autobiographies and thoughts on art and architecture. He has always been known for his bold and unapologetic nature which are then transmitted through his art.

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Personally, I believe that Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (2015) is the quintessential artwork of Ai Weiwei. As one of his iconic works captured in both in video and photographs, this particular performative action of holding, dropping and smashing a cultural heritage clearly demonstrates his critical engagement with China’s violent cultural tradition. It draws attention to the continuous desecration of cultural heritage. As shown in the photograph, these images were re-created in plastic blocks representing pixelated forms for the distribution of his powerful message in the digital platform. He originally wanted to use Lego blocks for his other works as well but the company refused to participate in his political activism.

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During the dynastic changes in China in an attempt to erase the past and start over with the new regimes, much of Buddhist statues dating from the Northern Wei (386–535 CE) to Northern Qi (550–577 CE) dynasties were looted and only a few pieces survived today. In Ai’s Feet (2005)he sculpted stone feet on these remaining statues to show that the past cannot easily be erased and eventually catch up with the present.

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At some point in his life, his audacity lead to his detention for 81 days. Every morning, he placed a bunch of flowers in the basket of a bicycle outside his studio and captured it on camera as a form of protest against his restriction to travel. He has posted images of these flowers on social media which emerged a movement called Flowers of Freedom.

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Ai Weiwei created this series in another art form through Bicycle Basket with Flowers Porcelain (2015) and Blossom (2015), this time, to protest against the restrictive rights of people through speech and human-rights. He collaborated with the skilled porcelain craftsmen from Jingdezhen province, whose predecessors once produced the highest quality of porcelain in Ancient China. Through this complex project, he has provided temporary employment to hundreds of people, whose livelihood has been declining through the years.

IMG_6087Blossom (2015) Bed of flowers made of porcelain

Ai Weiwei’s projects do not only focus on his bold actions against government policies and protests against restricted human rights, but he also continuously provides livelihood to the very victims of injustice. 

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Another perfect example would be the Sunflower Seeds (2010) which he created for his simple yet poetic exhibition. The extensive project has been collaborated again with approximately 1,600 skilled artisans of Jingdezhen producing over 150 tons of man-made Sunflower Seeds out of porcelain. Each piece have been individually hand-painted comprising of 2-3 strokes per side by the locals of the community and the entire project lasted for two and a half years.

Ai-Weiwei-Sunflower-Seeds-Still-from-Tate-video-9Image Source: Ai Weiwei Seeds

An excerpt from Ai’s Sunflower Seed’s website – Ai Weiwei Seeds – perfectly expresses the multiple yet simple meaning behind this project:

“For Ai Weiwei, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ is one piece of art that is composed of 100 million pieces of art. As a singular tiny sculpture, every seed is submerged by a hundred million ones with subtle nuances, similar yet each unique, just as 1,600 workers in Jingdezhen performing repetitive duties; as 1.3 billion Chinese, silent in the crowd; as every fragmented individual in this digital era. Through a sunflower seed, Ai Weiwei triggers a Domino effect, enlarging the lengthy, complicated and exquisite process by 100 million times. Devoting unimaginable patience, time and energy, he brings into focus the significance of individuals, and the imposing strength when they gather together.”

The video below shows the extensive and laborious process each Sunflower seed went through for this project:


Video Source: Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds by Tate

 Ai retells his detention for 81 days back in 2011 through a series of dioramas entitled S.A.C.R.E.D. Maquettes (2011). The acronym stands for  Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy and Doubt, which are the six parts of this series that are all made of fibreglass. It depicts scenes at the cell where he was imprisoned without charges that serve as evidences of oppression, denial of personal freedom and loss of dignity, he and several victims went through.

IMG_6141One of the dioramas in the series. It clearly portrays his lack of privacy and dignity throughout his time at the detention cell.

Ai do not only portray his messages through sculptures, print and dioramas, but he also take in consideration the type of material used in each masterpiece to deliver his evocative messages.

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In Surveillance Camera (2010), Ai’s practice of incorporating traditional materials in addressing contemporary cultural issues is evident. By using traditional marble to portray the elevated status of a significant artefact in this particular sculpture, this piece is very personal to Ai that relates back to his confinement at his studio while all his actions were being monitored.

handcuffsHandcuffs (2015) were both sculpted in jade and in wood. Jade is considered to be the most precious stone in China. Historically speaking, jade is worn only by the members of imperial family. Ai portrays the similar cuffs he wore during his imprisonment to address contemporary issues in the government.

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If there’s one project that clearly defines Ai Weiwei’s character and controversial career, I personally believe it’s the Study of Perspective (1993-2005). As seen in every photograph, Ai is giving a finger in every iconic location around the globe to express his disdain for authority. His audacious behaviour and poetic forms of powerful communication have inspired a new generation of artists in the 21st Century.

Andy Warhol x Ai WeiWei

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Some exhibits showcase a parallel in artistic value and in speaking social context beyond the world of art. In Neolithic Pottery with Coca-Cola Logo (2007), Ai portrays a pop-cultural imagery through the influence of Andy by painting a Chinese artefact and branding it with a logo that represents American capitalism.

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Myths are traditional stories explaining historical events or natural and social phenomenons. Ai and Andy both explore these myths through cultural archetypes from two different parts of the world. Circle of Animals (2010), is a reinterpretation of the twelve zodiac heads ransacked by French and British troops. It functioned as a water clock–fountain in the European-style gardens of Yuanmingyuan palace. “Ai focuses attention on the ethics of looting and repatriation, the role of the fake and the copy and power relations between China and the West.” (Source: Circle of Animals label)

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On the other hand, Andy presents the cultural archetypes in the American popular culture through a series of silkscreen paintings that run from Uncle Sam to the superstardom of Hollywood screen siren Greta Garbo and the innocent charm of Mickey Mouse. (Source:Narrative, myth and memory label)


Further Readings:

Masterchef x Australia

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The new season of Masterchef Australia starts tonight. It’s only fitting to post my snapshots inside the famous Masterchef Kitchen!

A little backstory about the show, Masterchef TV show was originally produced in the early 90’s and was re-developed in Australia way back in 2009 that propelled its international success (Ref). Having an avid fan of the show, I was delighted to have visited the Masterchef Kitchen, located in Metro Melbourne, where the show is annually shot.

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Among any other reality cooking shows, Masterchef got less drama and has more interesting challenges. Its format also allow a lot of information to be absorbed and learned from by the audience. It’s one of the best ways to subtly learn about culinary art while entertaining oneself. It basically showcases creativity of different culinary styles and innovating gastronomic skills. From then on, I’ve become more appreciative of the techniques and fusion of flavours in every dish I taste.

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Food Paradise in the Capital

If you are looking for a food adventure in Beijing, you should never miss the Wangfujing Night Market, known as Donghuamen Night Street by the locals.

The 100-meter long street food market is not hard to miss. Its eye-catching red lanterns and clean red stalls along Dong’anmen Street near Wangfujing Area is the perfect tourist destination at night. It opens at 6 in the evening everyday to delight everyone in the area. Several tourists would go a long way just to experience the market in the Capital.

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It offers a variety of authentic Chinese and exotic snacks: From the usual barbecues, noodles, “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies, local desserts, dim sums, hamburgers, pancakes and grilled seafood to insects, snakes, spiders and other surprising finger foods.

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The market is famous for its grilled exotic snacks on skewers; particularly scorpions, centipedes, crickets, seahorses, starfishes and bugs. Several stalls sell these snacks to challenge your appetite.

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I cannot imagine having a bite of these snacks though. But I can’t help admiring them all!

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These creatures are known for its rich nutrients but bland in flavour. It’s crunchy and very delicious.

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Arachnids are also served in this market. Those legs are crisp and snack-worthy. It would be a fun food adventure only if I didn’t know they’re spiders!

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The harmful toxins inside centipedes and scorpions are sucked out of them before being sold. So these food are perfectly safe! You don’t have to worry about health concerns especially that these are prepared in a clean environment.

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Have you ever dreamt of savouring snakes and eels? With the markets cheap food prices, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

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A variety of grilled seafood is available to be indulged by those who cannot take to try exotic snacks. Seafood in skewers heaven! Fishes, shrimps, squids, baby lobsters and royal crabs are freshly skewed and grilled right in front of you.

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Crispy shrimps! These babies are satisfying to my hungry stomach.

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Just like any other street food areas, this market sells particular parts of chicken, pork, lamb and beef; Including intestines, kidneys and other inside parts.

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And of course, the famous steamed dim sums of Chinese cuisine! Served hot and perfect for the cold night.

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Some dim sums have dog meat stuffed in it. Be sure to carefully choose when trying out some of them.

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Once all stuffed and satisfied with all the dinner you get in one night, it’s time for desserts!

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One thing you should never miss to check out is the famous “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies. Even in other markets around the area, these sweet candies are sold on the streets at any time of the day.

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The range of food in China is as broad is its vast land. The market showcases a wide range of local desserts to satisfy a variety of sweet lovers out there!

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Buchi-looking delicacies!

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China has a lot of creativity in using flour in preparing different desserts and pastries. All are equally tasty despite the differences in flavours.

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But don’t be fooled. Some of these sweet-looking pastries are actually spicy and contains different spices on it

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The market doesn’t only appeal to the food explorers. It is also appetising to the young and the young at heart. Aside from normal skewers, fruit candies, pancakes and donuts, these fried snacks with smiley faces will surely make your little kids’ night memorable.

White Night Melbourne 2014

In 2013, Melbourne is the first city in Australia to join the ranks of global cities producing all-night arts events. Melbourne is known as Australia’s international city of artistic innovation. It embraces the opportunity to showcase its commitment to art, music and diverse culture.

When my family moved in to Melbourne in 2013, we were still staying at the service apartment along Elizabeth St in the city. It was the time White Night Melbourne premiered in Australia. I can still remember looking at tweets of people all over the city exploring the different activities simultaneously happening that night.

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This year, I decided to join the fun and see by myself what was out there. I only had a few hours to spend since I needed to catch the late train going home on a Saturday night, so I wasn’t able to explore every activity that was happening.

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First stop, I watched the Moonlight Synchronised Swimming at the Melbourne City Baths. A lot of people were already queueing all around the block just to get in. I was able to see the show Almost an hour later and the queue was even longer than before! *Yikes*

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On my way to our next stop, we passed by this food kiosk catering Filipino food just for the event! Proud to be Pinoy! I wanted to try it out but the queue was so long. 😦

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Then I went straight to the State Library of Victoria where various light works were being lit up on the facade of the library.

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Just across the road is the Melbourne Central. We had a quick peek on what’s going on inside and found out that the iconic tower was also participating. Amazing!

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The event was city-wide extending up to the other side of Yarra River. Several artworks and light performances can be seen along every stop.

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There were also live bands performing in some corners in the city.

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One of the big universities in the city, RMIT, hosted the galleries for the exhibitions. We managed to get into one and snapped a few artworks inside. There were also short films being played over and over again for everyone to see.

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Sooner than we thought, the night was over. I needed to get leave to catch our train. The entire Swanston Street was literally filled with people. It’s like flooded with people all over the place. Took me at least 40 minutes to walk down from the library to Flinders Station, which is like only 6-8 blocks away!

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Good thing a stampede didn’t happen during the event. I pity those kids forced to be there at that kind of situation. D:

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Even the iconic Flinders Street Station was part of the event. Several light performances were being lit on different parts of its facade! Incredible works!

But the night wasn’t getting any younger for me so I headed straight back home. Too bad I wasn’t able to visit the activities past the Yarra River. Maybe next year then!

Beijing Tea Ceremony

As a half-blood Chinese decent, =^_~=  it’s a satisfying experience to walk on the very land where our family’s first men walked centuries ago. This will be my first blog post regarding my recent trip to Beijing focusing on my favourite thing and the second most consumed liquid in the world – TEA! ❤

To give you a bit of my background regarding my love of tea, I used to be an obsessed coffee-drinker. Hot or iced, espresso or latte, taking a minimum of five cups a day. Then my obsession suddenly stopped for half a year. Then when I had coffee again after hiatus, my body started rejecting it. It’s not the caffeine that my body starts to reject, probably some other substance that coffee has.

That life changing event made me switch to my next obsession – TEA! Yay!

To make the most out of my trip, I made sure that I never miss the opportunity to experience the famous “Chayi” or “Art of Tea”, commonly known as the tea ceremony, in the very capital of China.

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I went to the little teashop within the grounds of Temple of Heaven. It is not hard to miss. It can be found before you leave the grounds, just beside the entrance/exit gate. It’s also easy to recognise because of the round arch popular in Chinese homes and the entrance is filled with tea mugs, teapots and anything about tea!

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Tea has been part of the Chinese culture as long as history could trace back. Tea is not just a beverage or a hot drink to warm up on a winter season. The ceremony is practiced in every possible reason you could think of. May it be to pay respect, to show gratitude, to ask for an apology or to celebrate an occasion. Aside from this, tea is consumed for health purposes. Its medicinal effect is probably the secret of Asians for being slim, youthful looking skin, having long life and less health complications as they grow old.

I’m going to share with you the steps of the tea ceremony I experienced during my trip. =^_~=image

Small teapots made of clay and glass are used in a tea ceremony. They say that this is one of the secrets of a good tea because of the environment it provides when brewing.

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Since Fruit Tea is the most flavourful, tasty and very enjoyable among the teas I tried during the ceremony, I’ll be using it as the example to show you the process. Fruit tea, made of mixed dried berries and other fruits, is passed on by the tea master to be appreciated by the guests.

Fruit Tea‘s medicinal properties greatly helps in digestion and bowel movement without the painful feeling you get from readily packed and bagged diet teas in the market. After steeping this particular type of tea for 4 to 5 times (without losing its flavor), you can even eat it for snack or mix it with your cereals.

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To start the ceremony, the tea master warms up the clay teapot, teapot pitcher (glass) and tea cups by pouring boiling water inside and out, then rinsing it afterwards. This process is done on top of the tea washing tray to cure or cleanse the tools.

Once ready, loose leaf is strained in the clay teapot, covered with a lid and brewed in a specific time depending on the type of tea. While brewing, boiling water is poured over the teapot to allow it to be hot and helps in the brewing process.

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Tea is then poured on the teapot pitcher (made of glass), which is then poured on the tall and narrow cup, one of the two cups used in the tea ceremony. The guests then sniff the aroma and appreciate the quality of tea as part of the process. The other cup is then placed upside down on top of the filled cup and guests quickly flip the cups so the tea is now on the second cup. This step is believed to bring prosperity, happiness and luck to the guests.

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Finally, after a long preparation, tea can now be indulged and seconds are welcome. Teas during the ceremony are sipped slowly and its aroma is enjoyed for almost an hour before the first sip.

Sipping is also traditionally done in steps and each signifies good health for the teeth, heart and stomach. I don’t really remember all the sips though.

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Another kind of tea is the Blooming or Flowering Tea. From the name itself, this flower bud blooms when immersed in water. It’s not as medicinal as the other teas, but it is very good decoration at home.

imageThe flower comes out when the flower bud blooms underwater.

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My next favourite is the Lychee Tea or the Litchi Black Tea .It is good for the stomach and anemia and a teaspoon can be reused for 3 to 4 times.

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 Lychee Tea can be mixed with rose petals to further enhance its flavor.

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It tastes a bit sweet and exactly like Lychee! I bought a can of it that is good for months of consumption!

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The next tea is the most medicianl tea I have ever encountered in my life. The Pu-ehr Tea (others spell it as Pu-re / Pu-re / Pu’er / Pu-reh) or Sexy Tea.  This type of tea is dried, condensed, shaped in tablets and wrapped in paper. It is a gradually fermented and matured chinese dark tea (different from Western’s black tea) for a number of years, and just like red wine, the longer it is stored and sealed in tin cans, the greater its taste would be developed. Hence, the more medicinal it would get.

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Pu-ehr or Sexy Tea is the best tea for losing weight. That’s why it is called the Sexy Tea! It is also the best tea for lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, controlling sugar levels of those suffering diabetes.  This tea can be brewed 7 to 8 times. Unlike the fruit teas I mentioned, this tea is bland in flavour. But because of its great medicinal effects, I think it cancels it out.

imageThe last but not the least kind of tea and is very popular worldwide is the Ginseng Oolong Tea. Popularised by Korean dramas, we all know the Ginseng is famous for treating various illnesses. Considering this fact combined with Oolong, it is easy to conclude that Ginseng Oolong Tea’s beneficial effects are doubled!

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Ginseng Oolong Tea is good for the memory, energy and kidney health. This can be brewed 5 to 6 times.

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The tea master also showed us the Pee Pee Boy. It is made of clay that is used to test if the water is hot enough for the tea ceremony. When the Pee Pee Boy pees when you pour boiling water on top of it, then it means you are ready to start. It doesn’t pee at all if you pour cold water. Amazing, isn’t it?

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