The most beautiful tea-girl in China.
There are many government-run factory stores in China, set up for the tourist trade. We had trouble getting our guides to tell us exactly how the workers in these companies are set up and/or compensated, or how the guides themselves - shuttling tourists through in the hopes of selling merchandise - are compensated. Do they all work on commission? Seems likely, just based on how hard they work for a sale, and how elaborate and detailed are their pitches.
My husband and I are both journalists, so - believe me - we did our best. We approached the question from every angle. But when it comes to those secrets that they're determined to conceal, it's impossible to crack the opacity of the Chinese system.
As far as tourists go, these "factories" are really a rather wonderful resource - you get the history, the detailed description of the craft. You get to watch the artisans at work behind glass in every stage of the creative process, and you get a museum-like room full of examples of the final products, from the most elaborate and genuine to the most affordable. In the end, inevitably, you are directed onto a sales floor where skilled salespeople try hard to sell you as much product as possible.
But by that time, it seems almost worth it.
During the course of our three-week stay, we saw a jade factory, a pearl factory, a cloisonne factory, a silk factory and a tea house, depending on the region we were exploring at the time.
The tea ceremony that was performed for us at this location was particularly lovely, elaborate and soothing. But what really grabbed me on this afternoon was the girl who performed our tea ceremony for us.
Don't get me wrong - the tea was beautiful, subtle, exquisite. Of course I always knew that China was famed for their tea. But I never anticipated how far superior was their tea to that which we know here in the US. It was a transportative experience. But throughout the various demonstrations, I could not tear my eyes away from the beauty of this young woman.
Isn't she stunning?
In the end, we came home with rosebud tea (a gift from one of our guides), fresh Jasmine, a rare black tea with a very unique flavor that was recommended to us as having curative properties, and one of the foiled flowers you see here - which appears as a knot of gnarled black in its dried form, but blossoms into an elaborate bloom when doused in hot water.