Thursday, November 24, 2016

Taoxichuan Art Park

Looking at the picture of the Taoxichuan (陶溪川) complex, the latest development project in central Jingdezhen (景德鎮), one might have mistaken it to be some gentrified art and culture space sprouted in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei or even Hong Kong to a lesser extent.

Taoxichuan, with the rather poetic name literally meant Streams of Ceramics, has only been open to public for less than a month when we dropped by for a visit one evening during our week in Jingdezhen, after a 3-year development effort to turn a deserted ceramics factory into an "Art Park" completed with museums, galleries, shops, park and restaurants. The site sat on the now-defunct Yuzhou CiChang (宇宙瓷廠), or Cosmo Porcelain Factory, one of the state-own ceramics factories which have seen its heyday in the late 70s and early 80s as the biggest exporters of household porcelain products.

Most of the old buildings, built in the magnificent Bauhaus style by the Soviet architects in the 50s and 60s, was kept in its original form including the kilns inside, allowing visitors to glimpse through the manufacturing process from a historical perspective. Many interesting artifacts were kept in a gallery as permanent exhibition, reflecting on the life as a craftsman working during that golden era as a tribute of sort to the legacy. The other space was dedicated to rotating exhibitions, showcasing either antiques or rare items, or some done by contemporary local or overseas artists in the more recent times. It's a pity not being able to spend more times going through all of them in details this time with just a few hours walking around.

Near the entrance of the park was a pavilion filled with small stalls being offered to students or new artists for their start-up business. While they may not be collectible items (yet), many of them were perfect for everyday use, were reasonably priced and of high quality. Along the main street there were more shops and private galleries, giving us more opportunities to look around and shop. We all ended up a few bagful of stuff.

After much shopping and gallery-hopping, we took refuge at Yuan Sheng Café (元生咖啡), the first overseas branch of the Taiwanese artisan coffee house/bar, chilling in the spacious room with cool décor and comfortable couches. I was surprised at the fine selection of imported craft beers or single-origin coffee beans brewed in siphon, or bread baked fresh daily with natural yeast. (and they also have the best bathroom facilities in all of the place we went that week - for those who have traveled to China you knew that's worth mentioning)

In the evening we dined at Hutaoli (胡陶里), a hip restaurant in an amazing venue offering a fusion food menu, impressive wine list and a stage with live band performance, playing a series of western and Chinese hits. Food was rather generic and probably geared more towards tourists or out-of-towners on an expense account, but it had really good vibes and opened til late, for those who need a late-night drink after all the shopping.

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