My wife gets an idea that we should get some pottery from Yunnan Ethnic minorities and first what comes in her mind is Dai Tao – the pottery from Dai Zu ( Dai Ethnic group ) .
After long 9hours bus ride from Kunming we get to Jinhong late evening very tired and leaving Dai Tao search for tomorrow. Next morning we are wandering around the local tea shops and asking about Dai pottery but not getting any valuable information.
We are finding few shops in town which are mostly aimed for tourists and offer the pottery not much related to tea.
Some shops have simple gaiwans or tea cups , but the craft ship seems to be too clumsy.
After few days walking around the town and asking locals we are almost giving up. One of the tea vendor pointing us to the small Dai village called Mang Zhang located just an hour away from Jing Hong. We are taking a bus next morning with all bags planning to stay overnight.
Passing the main gate is already obvious that this please has been “turistified”. Restaurants, street signs pointing to different activities like pottery craft, Dai paper craft or local clothes / dress. ( I know , hard to believe it without the tourists on the pictures )
Dai pottery ( slow wheel ) made on hand rotating stand is available in first restaurant for trial. For 10CNY u can try and another 10CNY can take product away.
I cant resist and try to make a Dai paper which we sell for wrapping pu-erh tea cakes.Process is very simple but smashing boiled tree bark with wooden hammer, requires a bit of energy alright!
It needs to be separated in as small as possible strings which are mixed with water after and turned into the fluffy kind of estate. Portions of that fluffy mug is applied on the flat square strainer sink into the water pool and bark bits spread evenly all over.
Then just slowly lift the strainer up, water will come trough out and let it dry on the sun. Quite a fun for 10CNY. But still , the fact that lady says from which angle my wife should take a picture and framed photo of her with some foreign family who came on holiday last year with kids, doesn’t make me feel being in authentic village but just in another cultural zoo:-(
After buying a small pack of tea from local grannie ( actually not bad sheng pu ) , we are waking around the village searching for the pottery. Still can’t find what we need and from seeing the output of locals I believe they just stared / re-started recently for the tourist purposes.
We were lucky be there before weekend , because apart of the regular accommodation i Dai house ( not the classic one ) , you can also rent a caravan, but that will cost you more than renting 3 rooms in that village.
Am I surprised that Saturday is all booked out?
Anyway, I must say we had a very nice day there , good noodles for 6CNY and wonderful rest in hammock in hot afternoon, but we still haven’t got what we came for:-(
Second attempt and failure again. I’m about to give up , but on the way back we have chat with local grannie and she finally point us to the right direction.
We are going to another village were we meet the real pottery makers. Small company run by local family who managed to make apart of the traditional big size pottery also decent gaiwans and other small thing which will suit for the tea ceremony.
They have a very small manufacture at the back of the shop with few workers and nice wooden hut in made as a presentation room.
Except regular gas kiln firing the traditional way on wood is still available.
When we are talking to the owner of the shop one of the workers brings us tea and smiling at us all the time without saying any word. What we learn later , she is The Master …… The person who is behind of most of the art in their workshop.
Yu Feng , the real Dai Tao pottery master.
Feng’s family inherited and preserved technique from their ancestors and at the moment she is the only one real Dai Tao master in China. Since childhood she started learning how to make pottery from her mother. Not as another kind of teapot/ Pottery master，she wasn’t making potteries very often for commercial purposes , most of the time she was just teaching students who were interested to learn the ancient Dai Tao slow wheel technique.
Long time ago , there were many Dai villages making the pottery their daily life use. The interesting thing is , that only women were allowed to transmitted the Dai Tao pottery skill ，and only men were allowed to learn Dai characters and pass that experience to other men. When time goes by , the ancient technique of making pottery almost disappeared.
We took few pieces for try , see if our customers like it and we hope to cooperate with them more.