Friday, 7 June 2013

Some Chinese Goodies

It is a sad refelction on the state of the West that most of what we buy these days comes from China. Having seen the amount of industry the Chinese have built (and are building), the environmental pain they are prepared to suffer and finally the extent they are prepared to allow the exploitation of workers in the People's Republic it is no surprise. We cannot compete unless we are prepared to push ourselves back into the Victorian era.

Having a Chinese project on the go I was on the look out for anything suitable that I could bring back to augment the look of it all that the Chinese hadn't got round to exporting to us already. Or at least get things cheaply with the added veneer of authenticity that comes from actually buying things in China. The finding of items was a bit hit and miss and some of the best stuff I got on the very last day we were there. Somethings I saw on the first day so frequently that  thought it'd be easy to pick them up at anytime. Once we got away from Shanghai that proved not to be the case.

My real aim was to pick up some suitable buildings, particularly pagodas and aything with a curvy roof as they're a real pig to do. I even took along a couple of figures so I could judge the scale.

Exhibit "A" is therefore my pagodas.

I got three of them as you can see. They're resin and have got a bit chipped on  the way back, but they're okay otherwise. They're probably closer to 6mm/10mm scale if I was being hyper-critical, but once they're painted up and put on a slight hill they'll do fine. I had to bargain for them in a hurry and I think I paid about 100 Yuan, - just about £11 at the exchange rate at the time. I probably could have got the price down lower if I'd been prepared to walk on but it was raining and I had to head for the coach.

Next up was a mini-Mah Jong set.

As regular readers will know I've used dominoes and playing cards in games for quite a while as well as traditional dice. I've never really looked at Mah Jong, but I learned how to play it on the boat as we cruised up the Yangtse and thought that I could use the tiles as a more culturally appropriate unit or turn activation mechanism. I was resolved to buy a large set, then I saw these. They're about 1.5cm x 1cm each tile and I thought they'd do good service as unit status markers or something similar. Besides a full sized set is really heavy and we were up against luggage restrictions because of the internal flights we had to make. Again I was bargaining in the rain and in a hurry, so I paid more than I was intending as I did the conversion rate wrong in my head. I thought I was paying less than £5. I actually paid closer to £9. Curses. Proved to me how out of practice I was.The maths teacher on the trip (and my daughter who likewise teaches the purest of sciences) would have been ashamed of me.

Which brings me to the final day's haul at the souvenir shop near the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

As we walked past it out of the corner of my eye I saw some wooden puzzles from the delightfully named "Human Again" Wooden Toys range. As part of this range they do historical buildings, and in the window they had the Tianamen Gate and a "Beijing Courtyard House". A quick check with the figures I had with me revealed they were pretty much 15mm scale. They're quite large models, and the courtyard building may well cut down into four or five (at least) small buildings.

So far I have only built the Tianamen Gate. This famously has a picture of chairman Mao on the front, but I've built it without:

This is a the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, but it is in practice a pretty good proxy for the standard Ming period city gate. My only conundrum is whether I should repaint it. The two kits together I got for 110 Yuan, - about £12. I may have been able to get them cheaper, but compared with internet prices of equivalent items in the range that's a pretty good deal.

Then as I was walking out my eye caught some items to add to the Shedquarters hat shelf:

Yes, embroidered Mandarin hats, - WITH PIGTAILS. The lady said "genuine silk" (I think not) and there are two of them there which cost me 40 Yuan for the pair. Total bargain.

All of these items have been used in a game since I got back, so pictures of that to follow in due course.



  1. I have used (admittedly larger) Mah Jong tiles to build walls around buildings and as "ruins" (in a scatter pattern) in a number of my Colonial games. You might find them suitable for something similar.

    -- Jeff

    1. They just look like they should be so useful. It's just working out what for.

      Hadn't thouht of ersatz scenery.