New York City's Glorious Chinese
>> Chinese arts and crafts are some of the most beautiful and intricate in the world, but the image of Chinese arts is sometimes obscured by tourist trinkets.
To see more than paper red dragons or good luck jade bracelets in New York, you need to visit authentic Chinese import houses. Finding them takes persistence.
Few Chinese import houses are large, or are on main streets. The fabulous GCS Gifts Trading, which I wrote about in Chinese Stone Carving - Singing in Stone, for example, is located in a bright room behind a tidy Queens grocery store.
Likewise, many high quality shops in Chinatown are crammed into less than 400 square feet. While merchandise is excellent, selection is limited to what fits on a shelf. Small objects rule!
Much to my pleasant surprise, I discovered the huge, bright ANC Production while walking home after buying a book from Barnes and Noble in Union Square. I stopped in immediately.
ANC Production features everything but clothing (go to Pearl River for that).
By the entrance is a large display of stone carvings of the type sold by GCS Gifts Trading. The floral and fruit carving above and the corn to the right are examples.
Most carvings made from striated (layered) stones, which are actually hardened masses of tree sap. Colored layers develop in the sap over time, with the tinting produced by surrounding vegetation that fuses with the sap.
Each stone is individually designed. First, it is appraised by a master designer who determines how the striated colors should be used throughout the sculpture. The master then gives an artist (often a team of artists) sketches. Finally, the artist carves layer upon layer, exposing each color as a vivid surprise. A few flourishes may be glued on to the final piece, but not many.
In looking at the picture above, think about the vision, talent and tranquility it took to produce an ear of corn from stone that had a bright core of yellow!
Walking past the stonework, you'll see tables full of smaller arts, fabric crafts and jewelry. I think that every type of Chinese art is represented, including lanterns and paper cutting.
As you continue walking through the store, you'll also see a large display of antique doors, the check-out counter, note cards, more tables and then, the back room (shown) where a wooden furniture and containers are displayed.
I collect antique Oriental baskets and easily found good examples here (one of which I purchased). In addition to bamboo and wooden boxes, they have hand-carved baskets that originated from tree trunks. Like fancy stonework, each basket also features flowers, fruit, mushrooms, birds and insects.
Tip: For those of you who purchase unusual baskets for Easter gifts, this is the place to shop! Chinese specialize in gift containers of all types, so stock up for future wedding, birthday and friendship gifts.
Not surprisingly, the large, multi-layer baskets you see on the top shelf in the photo above are called "wedding baskets." They are designed to hold the gifts and food given to a wedding party, which is certainly more practical than the wrapping paper any day!
The best time to visit an import store is when the owner is on the premises. Feel free to ask questions. Importers love their merchandise and are usually happy to discuss the details with you.
Joseph Wong (right), President of ANC Production, says that approximately 80% of the furniture you see in his shop are antiques. That said, he also owns a reproduction facility in China where his craftsmen create new masterpieces based on historical designs.
Unlike smaller shops, this store is related to www.anchome.com, a large, sophisticated site. There you'll find few words, but many pictures! If you love Chinese objects, it will keep you entertained for hours.
ANC Production is located at 10 W. 18th Street, New York, NY 10011, near Union Square, not Chinatown. Call 800 592-9945 for more information.
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 3/23/2003. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.