So I’ve finally gotten around to scanning in all the awesome stuff I brought back from my trip to China, it’s taken a while, but this is a pretty busy time for me (what with uni project deadlines less than a month away) so there. First up, are these wonderful notebooks I picked up at a souvenier shop at one of Hangzhou’s markets (if anyone from Study China is reading this and can remeber the name of the market, any chance you could let me know? It was the one that was like a row of sheds, then shops with a McDonalds at the end, and it had a huge golden Buddha statue in the middle, ta!). Anyways, this shop literally had shelves full of cheap notebooks, printed on brown paper, all of which looked really quite old, adorned with various Chinese designs. There was alot of Communism-based stuff, most of it looking so nice it makes Communism appear far better than our own boring democracy.

This one notebook features various nice illustrations of Chairman Mao, and strong Chinese workers who are clearly pretty chuffed with the state of their country. The above image is a composite of various inside pages that have these great watermarks throughout the entire book. It’s at times like these that being able to read Chinese characters would be really handy, as I have no idea what it’s actually saying. Then again, I kinda like not knowing, it gives them a nice sense of a class and sophistication.

This one I had to buy simply for the unusual method of binding. Though the still-very-communist illustrations are pretty damn cool as well. This notebook is bound using red string, which has been threaded through the pages and wrapped around the outside, which is just fantastic. Next time you staple something, think about how much better it would look wrapped in red string. I have no idea how long these notebooks had been sitting in shop, but this one feels more like a classic Penguin book from the ’50s than a new notebook. The pages feel old, they sure look old anyways, with worn edges and marks that make you seem like you’re holding something very valuable. There is no way in hell I’m writing in ANY of these, it would feel too much like a crime.

I actually bought this one in the supermarket on our campus, but it still has a really austere feel that just looks great. Tea? Well it is China afterall. Where the others have bright colours and jubilant imagery, this one is more sophisticated and refined, a far more acurate reflection of the Chinese culture I saw at least.

These last two are by far my favourites, and are easily the most beautiful notebooks I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding in my hands. I’m a massive sucker for textiley illustration (and cute animals) and these are a combination of the two. If you don’t find these just downright delightful I literally have no time for you. I think they only cost me £1 or something crazy, and I wish I bought several more. Oh well, I chose the nicest ones anways, and they truly are wonderful little books.

Keeping with the theme of stationary are these gorgeous little erasers I bought in our supermarket. Again, I can’t help but fall in love with a cute animal, in this case, everyone’s favourite bunny Miffy. Suprisingly well designed for cheap rubbers. With the colours and the standard sqaure shape, there is a quaint, simple charm here that you just don’t get in here in the UK, and I mean in most things, let alone rubbers. Just like the notebooks, you’d have to pay me alot of money to actually use these.

Here are some of the other cool things I brought home:

I found packaging design in general to be quite similar to England: Most of it is modern, shiny, mass-produced crap, but then you stumble upon these old, retro examples that are just fantastic. The difference is that ‘old school’ Chinese design differs from our own, which is why I dig it so much. One thing I realised is that the Chinese strive to (or more accurately, WILL) do a fucking good job in pretty much anything, packaging and graphic design included. They won’t just produce some half-decent notebooks, they’ll produce outstanding pieces of art that no one in their right mind would defile with the stroke of a biro. And they’ll do it with more focus and self-motivation than I thought humanly possible.

Say what you like about the details of their history, heritage is everywhere you look in China, even in a huge city like Shanghai you’ll see ‘old china’ shining through the metalic sheen and hoards of people, and it’s great to see such admiration and affection for the beautiful. Whether it’s a temple build thousands of years ago, or a pack of matches produced for a hotel.

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