Green Tea at Longjing
Old Hangzhou sits on the eastern shore of much-bepoemed West Lake and has recently exploded in a blast of skyscrapers and factories to the north, east and south. But west and south of the lake are still wooded hills, fertile parts of whose slopes are terraced and planted with tea. Yesterday we took a bus to Longjing, the village of Dragon's Well, which sits at the head of a valley surrounded by teabearing mountains. There are excellent hiking trails in the area, and we took the kids up along one of them to the top of Qipanshan, Chessboard Mountain. Actually, we didn't have to take them there, they happily ran up much of the path among bamboo and banana plants. None of the trees were more than a few decades old, so the area must pretty much have been denuded in recent times. There's a pottery industry near where we're staying with Medieval traditions at least since the South Song, so I imagine that logging pressure for the kilns must have been intense. (They used to make ceremonial porcelain for the Imperial court. Now they make toilets. Guess what ordinary people have more use for.)
After our escalade, 750 horizontal meters either way as the crow flies, we had lunch under a parasol, listening to the squall of the fish tank and the maniacal keening of amorous insects in the trees. This being Longjing, which is a household name for tea in the Chinese-speaking world, we of course had some local green. And boy, did we get tea. There was hardly any room for water in my glass, its contents looking more like a salad than a beverage. I'm not much into green tea, it's just bitter-nutty water to me. But it was kind of nice to recognise the very same leaf buds that we had sampled off of blooming bushes on terraces up on the mountain. The food was nice: spinach with tofu, prawn and cured ham: red soy pork side with blubber on; and a thick-stemmed mustard-like plant chopped and fried with paprika and white slivers of, if I understood correctly, pig windpipe.
We spent the afternoon questing for pirated (or at least cheap) Gameboy games in the city, learning that for DS games it is no longer profitable to pirate them onto physical cartridges as the kids tend to mod their DS consoles and download games from the net. Just a more convenient medium, cutting out the middle man.