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So Mid Autumn festival’s around the corner there’s much more to Autumn and Chinese social gatherings than mooncake and lanterns. In fact, what we do at Hanfugirls Collective has always been to challenge those stereotypes and what better time to do that than this Autumn!
We’re relooking at Autumn celebrations and social gatherings this Yaji series, and yes we’ll have the tea, we’ll have the dessert/cakes, and we’ll have the social gathering, but we will not do the Mid-Autumn, Winter Solstice, Spring Festival and Dragon Boat Festival clichés since you really don’t need us to help you celebrate those, do you?
While people are busy with revenge travel, Yaji: Seasons will be the ultimate historically-based cultural experience for those who are dying for some solid historical content delivered as immersive as you can possibly hope for.
You will get to experience a world of ancient Chinese culture (without all the fluffy mysticisms) that you never knew existed, in one afternoon.
It is the first in a series of Elegant Gatherings paying homage to gatherings where ancient literati would enjoy great poetry and exchange thoughts through the finest sensorial experiences. Like the ancients who curated their lives around nature’s offerings, we commence our quarterly Yaji series, themed around the blooms and glooms of seasons – much akin to the rise and fall of ancient Chinese dynasties.The entire series is made up of 4 quarterly events pegged to each season and each event is themed according to an ancient dynasty and their culture, customs and arts.
The concept of Yaji (loosely translated to Elegant Gatherings) is similar to the French Salon, except more chilled/laid-back and bourgeois in form.
I know, the image looks so understated and probably doesn’t quite fit what you have in mind. But that’s the whole point of this entire afternoon—To let you experience the understated luxury valued by ancient Chinese literati. In fact, during the lecture (that’s right at the start) of the afternoon’s programme, I’m going to share about how to appreciate the understated Song aesthetics and how it was a departure from previous periods in fashion and socio-political norms.
We are starting off with the Song dynasty because its aesthetics and life philosophies are still very much in vogue today, as seen in the rise of Minimalism and the pursuit in the fine quality of life. You’d be surprised to know that the highest auction price for Chinese ceramics in the world today actually came from the Song dynasty, yes, with all these very very simple and plain looking wares. And you’ll hear more on why and the stories behind them.
Yaji: Seasons | An Autumn’s Song
A dynasty of oxymorons, the Song dynasty pioneered Chinese capitalism and consumerism while remaining devoted to the practice of Minimalism in its artistic expressions. While the modern Japanese whisked tea ceremony known as chanoyu traces its roots to the whisked tea customs of the Song, and the former’s wagashi from similar periods, the two remain distinctly different in essence. Come into the realm of the Song literati and discover an ancient Chinese world that blends high art with popular culture, kitsch with minimalism, and the understated luxury of the Chinese that you’ve never seen.
If you’ve been watching The Story of Minglan and A Dream of Splendour, you might want to sign up for the introductory lecture that explains the Song society and fashion through A Dream of Splendour.
Yaji, the Elegant Gatherings of ancient literati
The Palace Museum in Taipei did a Special exhibition on Yaji just before COVID (Yes, a little bit of cosmic irony there), naturally nobody get to experience it for the last 2 years at least. The highlight in these by-invitation only events were the poetry and arts experiences and we see how Crazy Rich Asian’s Tanhua viewing scene might be an homage to that cultural tradition (although definitely very diaspora perspective since there’s no poetry, cultural or literary exchanges!).
But one thing that Crazy Rich Asian got right was how seasonal such gatherings were, or rather how the Chinese had such reverence for nature and seasonal changes such that everything revolves around that.
Which is why I thought of having the first series based on seasons and you do see in the feature images that I had Chrysanthemum, Gingko, and Maple leaves. All of which are generally not associated with the Chinese but with the Dead, Japan, and Canada but actually quite quintessentially Chinese.
The entire collection of Yaji: Seasons consists of:
- Yaji: A Song dynasty Autumn Dream (24 September 2022)
- Yaji: The Qing dynasty’s Ode to Winter (Q4 2022/Q1 2023)
- Yaji: Spring blooms in Ming (Q2 2023)
- Yaji: The Cooling Summers of Tang (Q3 2023)
Song dynasty Tea Reconstruction & Customs
One of the highlight of the entire afternoon, in my opinion is the special historical reconstruction of Song Tea custom masterclass by Kenny Leong. I’ve known Kenny for the longest time and he is a professional Tea practitioner who has a profound understanding and appreciation for Tea and its role in Chinese societies, philosophies and aesthetics in history. He has been invited by luxury brands and corporates to conduct workshops related to Tea so it’s really as a favour that he’s come on board to conduct a special Masterclass for our Yaji series.
Yaji: An Autumn Experience
I’m working with @HerHeartefact and Kenny for this experience which allow participants to actually get a taste (pun intended) of the actual Song period with snacks and tea recreated from historical sources and recipes. This session follows the introductory lecture of the period, and allows more interactive and experiential type of engagement. You will even get to see replica Song period paintings and have a chat (if you’re into casual engagement) or long discussions (if you are passionate about arts and culture) on the various artforms.
The concept of Yaji might seem daunting and unfamiliar to us at first sight, but it’s really meant to be a fun gathering packed with intellectual and cultural exchanges and engagements!
Get Dressed For the Occasion
There is no formal dresscode for the afternoon, but you are encouraged to turn up dressed in Natural fibre or Autumn’s colours. I am also collaborating with Dressed Up Dreams Photo Studio to offer dress up and styling service to 4 lady-guests. I will be working with the guests for the best look, and the studio will help you get ready in that look with a professional make-up artist and some collector’s item Song era inspired dresses and accessories of mine.
You can opt to have a modern twist to your look, or go all the way authentically Song.
I have to give you a warning before you click on the event ticketing link. It’s not cheap because, well, you can never get this anywhere else and the kind of people and experience we can bring to the table, if you’ve been following me long enough, you would know. Also, these sessions are extremely exclusive due to the high interactivity and requirement for tutelage.
The purpose of this is to ensure sustainability in high quality content experiences in the long run. So, I guess I’ll see you there soon?
If you’re interested, here’s the Programme list and QR code to the main listing page! I’ve got all the events in one listing, and also individual events, whichever is more convenient for you to find and register!
Click HERE to access the details & booking page