Field Trip: Yingge Ceramics Museum 「鸚哥尋寶之旅」

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Yingge Ceramics Museum

Yingge is a district located in southwestern New Taipei City, a short train ride from Taipei Main Station.  I remember visiting it a few years ago, but a return visit has always been in the back of my mind.  Recently,  my friend Joy and I decided to make the trip to visit the Ceramics Museum, and to find some new dishes.

Other than those two activities, we didn’t really have anything else planned. We just wanted a relaxing day away from the hustle and bustle of Taipei,  and plenty of time to chat.  We arrived around lunch time, and decided to eat at one of the  local restaurants in the area, that serves Taiwan-ese style sushi.  The sushi comes in generous portions and in flavors such as tuna and cucumber.  If I shut my eyes while eating this, I would have totally thought I was eating a tuna fish sandwich.

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The staff is also friendly, and upon arrival, they asked if we would like either miso soup or steamed egg.  The steamed egg came in an individual, squat, ceramic pot.  (you can’t really tell from this photo, but it was delicious~ velvety in texture, and lightly scented with mushroom flavor.  What also intrigued me was the sturdy container  with the blue rim.  I don’t make steamed egg a lot these days, but I could see myself using these containers either for individual portions of flan, or for condiments.  Since we were in Yingge, I would keep a lookout for it in the shops.

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After lunch, we headed over the the Yingge Ceramics museum, which is a gorgeous glass and steel building.  There are several exhibitions currently going on.  Part of the permanent collection is a retrospective of Yingge’s history. This display shows some of the types of ceramics that were exported from Yingge in the old days.

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Upon closer inspection, I saw bowls were the similar pattern as the one I saw at the restaurant from lunch.

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And… I saw more bowls that I wanted to add to my collection.  I can already imagine them in my kitchen, filled with ice cream….

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This is probably what my kitchen would have looked like if I lived in the past!

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I love museums because I can be inspired by so many unexpected items.  I think these tiles are beautiful, and could totally see them as tiling on the kitchen floor in my future house.

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This bowl  serendipitously caught my eye.  I looked more closely, and found out that it was used to make a frozen dessert, similar to sorbet.  (I guess this would be the predecessors to the ice-cream maker freezer bowl!)

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Table settings of chopsticks and sauce bowls.

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People are surprised when they find out that I like museums.  They are even more surprised when they find out I like browsing museums even more than shopping.  But really, what is there not to like about moving slowly within an (air-conditioned!) space full of interesting objects? Plus, there is no buyer’s remorse to worry about either.

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 I really enjoy the Yingge  Ceramics Museum because it’s full of the types of objects that I like best: dishes, teapots, kitchenware, housewares, artwork and neat little knickknacks.

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One of the special exhibitions that was on during my visit featured these amazing, incredibly intricate ceramic houses.

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Another artist had ceramic lampshades in her exhibition.  I didn’t know lampshades could be ceramic~ but I would certainly love to have these in my future dining room.

photo_11The museum gift shop is worth a quick visit.  If you are from outside of Taiwan, this is a good place to find unique tea sets. The prices are fairly reasonable.  There is also a eclectic selection of ceramic pieces. I brought these tiny ceramic houses home with me. They remind me that simple concepts and techniques can also result in a delightful object.

photoAfter the museum, we headed to the Yingge Pottery Street (鸚哥老街)I didn’t end up taking very many photos because I was mostly unenthusiastic about the wares.  The stores in this area are most likely aimed at tourists. There were some lovely teapots, mugs and saucers at some of the stores, but the prices were a bit too high for my liking.  There was one store located towards the end of this street that is similar to a restaurant supply store.  There are dishes stacked both outside and inside the store, and it requires some patience to find the plates that you like.

photo_3By happy accident, I found these Japanese saucers on the bottom shelf of an outdoor rack.  Interestingly enough, I saw them in a magazine a few months ago, and had wanted to purchase them.  I tracked them down during one of those whirlwind errand-filled shopping days. But I didn’t buy them that day because I was on my way somewhere else, and didn’t want to risk them getting broken. So you can imagine my excitement when I found them in Yingge!  They were also a bargain price at less than $1 USD per piece.  Even more, I like that I bought these dishes during a relaxed day trip, with a good friend. I like my dishes to tell a story, or to remind me of a pleasant memory every time I use them.  I also purchased these ceramic spoons, which have several functions in my kitchen, either to serve condiments, or for eating ice cream.

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Once off the beaten path, we found a few stores that were less well-lit, yet still filled to the brim with all kind of dishes and bowls.  Joy was specifically  looking for these classic blue rimmed bowls, so I was happy that we could find them.  According to both Joy’s mom and the store owner, these bowls are slowly being petered out, partly because the potters who make them are retiring, and another reason is because they are being replaced by lighter, and fancier versions.  We did see several examples of their predecessors in the other stores, as well as the museum gift shop, but I prefer the classic version.

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I also saw the lovely blue bowls~ similar to the ones I saw in the museum exhibit. One reality to take into consideration is that these bowls are not usually sold individually, but in sets of  eight, or twelve.  But in a set of eight, they are extremely heavy.  So I was only able to bring one set home this time.  The prices are very reasonable for these durable bowls (about USD $7 dollars for 8 bowls)

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I also found the blue rimmed bowls with matching lids (used to serve the steamed egg from lunch time)  On an everyday basis, I plan to use them to store rock sugar.  I’m certain at some point, for some special occasion,  I’ll be making creme brûlée in them too!

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Since the trip, I’ve used all of the bowls and plates on several occasions, either for serving ice cream, or for rice and cereal. They are the perfect size, and retain both cold and heat well.

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Hopefully you’ll be seeing these bowls and dishes from this trip pop up quite frequently in future blog posts!

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Enjoy!

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