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Small Worlds of Bowls and Jars
Wanyao Village (Bowl Kilns) and Gangyao Village (Jar Kilns) are two places in East China's Zhejiang Province with attractions beyond their strange names, such as their beautiful scenery and interesting crafts.

Wanyao Village is located in Cangnan County of Wenzhou city. Starting from Wenzhou, we arrived at the village in drizzling rain. The village was so calm it seemed to be sleeping.

It is located on a slope and surrounded by trees. What was especially dazzling were the waterfalls gushing down from the mountain nearby, giving a spectacular background to the village.

Since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the village has been involved in the business of producing bowls. It is rightly proud of its snow-white china which sells well around the country. The business boomed during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when more than 4,000 residents lived in the village and their products sold like hot cakes.

But the village nowadays appears a little sluggish. Fewer young people can be seen there, only kids playing outside and elders washing or cooking.

But you can still visit many bowl kilns with well over 100 years of history. Wild grasses grow under the eaves which makes the place look fetchingly isolated.

In a resident's kitchen, we saw a lot of bowls which had been made previously. Their fluent lines and simple blue prints make them look like masterpieces.

Gangyao Village is located north of Wenzhou in Yongjia County. A national highway passes through the village, so you can see lots of jars piled up along both sides of the road.

Most of the residents there are surnamed Li. Elders from the village told us two brothers surnamed Li, who came to the place more than 300 years ago, are their ancestors. They were skilled at making jars and they found clays in the nearby mountain suited to producing them.

Walking around the village, almost every family is busy making jars. Even the ancestral temple and ancient stage are filled with machines.

You can watch the whole process of making a jar which is really difficult and time consuming. So elders said less young people in the village are interested in the craft these days.

(Shanghai Star May 24, 2003)

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