|the candy man's wares.|
Did you like my post on Beijing? Were you hoping for more? Well, wait no longer - I have a candy blowing video for you!
I knew before I went to China that the ancient folk art of candy blowing (also known as sugar blowing) was something I really wanted to catch in action. The number of craftsmen who practise it these days is on the decline, but luckily for me, we did see two or three of them scattered across the city.
One of them, whom I'll just refer to as Candyman, does his work on the vibrant Wangfujing snack street. Busy as this place was, getting business can be a tough gig if you're not selling practical food items. Whilst we were there, we saw hundreds of passers-by glance over at this guy's stall with a mild curiosity, but no-one stopped to buy. Fortunately for street artists like these, there will always be an enthusiastic traveller (*cough* sucker *cough*) willing to pay the price for a blown candy lollipop, and that night, that enthusiastic traveller (*cough* sucker *cough*) was me.
So I asked Candyman how much a lollipop would set me back. He offered three different options - from memory, it was something like 20 yuan, 30 yuan or 40 yuan. Even though I was regularly mistaken for a local in China, thanks to my appearance and my fairly fluent Mandarin, this is quite steep by local standards, and while it may be due to the rarity of candy blowers in modern China, it is also possible that I got a hiked-up quote because I had a white boy with me (hello Simon!). I did make a half-hearted attempt to haggle, but I think secretly we both knew that this girl wasn't leaving without some hot molten candy action so there really was no point wasting our time.
Now I also know there is no need to be frugal when travelling in China, but I chose the cheapest option. When you can get a bowl of noodles for 10 yuan, paying more than double that for candy just seems a little out of whack, even if it is candy art. So I put in an order for a basic, no-frills, 20-yuan lollipop. With the exchange rate at the time, that would be about 3 Australian dollars. I do have a slight twinge of regret at not going all out now. I guess this just means I'll have to return to China and do it all over again. Hey, you don't have to twist my arm.
Candyman asked me to pick an animal, suggesting that I could go for something from the Chinese horoscope. Simon and I were both born in the Year of the Dog, so a dog it was.
But I've rambled on long enough. Here's the video, courtesy of Simon. Enjoy!
P.S. In case you were wondering, the candy featured here is edible - though I'm not sure many people will want to eat it, with all that blowing and sculpting. It didn't last very long either, probably because we had the heater on in our hotel room - my lollipop became increasingly crumpled over the next few days, and was all but collapsed by the end of the week.
I didn't mind - I regard this as street art that you can take home and admire for a little while. What I really paid for was the up close and personal experience of watching a candy blower in action, and I think I totally got my money's worth, especially with this video shot at just the right spot - watching this is like being briefly transported back to Beijing again. The sights. The sounds. The hustle and the bustle. Thank you, China, for the good times!
If you would like to read more about candy blowing, try here, here and here - the guy in the last link, it turns out, is no other than the Candyman in my video!