The city of Hengshui, Hebei province has three things the public consider worth seeing -- Hengshui goldfish, painted snuff bottles, and Houdian writing brush.
Painted snuff bottle
This "biyanhu¡±, (¡°nose tobacco bottle) whose inside is also painted, was made of glass, crystal or agate. Artists used an iron tool and abrasive to polish the inside before painting the bottle with different images. The snuff bottles at Hengshui¡¯s Xisan Interior-paint Art Gallery are famous for the traditional, superb craftsmanship and delicacy in painting. The gallery, which opened in 1988, has 18 prominent painters possessing interior painting skills, unique style and technique. They all are leaders in their field. Artistic charm has given the snuff bottle a growing reputation among collectors in China and abroad. Those featuring a portrait of a foreign leader are the most famous of all, making them a good gift for top politicians from the US, Britain, or Brazil, for example.
These goldfish, also known as ¡°imperial goldfish¡±, are a must-see because they are a species of Beijing goldfish, one of China¡¯s two major goldfishes (the other being the Hangzhou goldfish) and are cared for by Xu Licai, a 10th generation descendant of a family of Beijing imperial goldfish¡¯s breeders. Since 1982, Xu has produced new varieties of the breed, such as the ¡°Hongtouwangtian¡± (red head [turned] towards the sky), the ¡°Hutou¡± (tiger head), ¡°Shuipaoyan" (bugeyed), ¡°Ma¡¯naoyan" (agate eyed) and ¡°Baiyuguan¡± (white jade crown). And his goldfish have been shipped to Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States and other countries as they gain in popularity. In 1986, Shenzhen¡¯s Shekou Sea World had some of Xu¡¯s goldfish on exhibit, which impressed locals and visitors from Hong Kong and Macao a lot. In recent years, he has received visitors from many countries and has brought many honors to Hengshui, raising its reputation. A group of Chinese leaders, including Li Xiannian, Wang Renzhong, Lin Liyun, Liu Runtao, Rui Xingwen, Liu Zhenhua, have visited Xu¡¯s goldfish farm and spoken highly of it
Houdian Writing Brush
This writing brush, also known as the "Hou brush", came into existence during the Emperor Yongle (1404) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and became an imperial stationary during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). There are more than 270 types of similar writing brushes with a long handle and easy-to-use brush. They mainly come from the village Houdian, in Hengshui¡¯s Taocheng district. The ¡°Fengyue¡±, ¡°Shuiyue¡±, and ¡°Xiaolanghao¡± brands are designated trustworthy products. They are inspection-free at Tianjin¡¯s Port and are exported to more than 10 countries, such as Japan and Singapore, with about three million making their way abroad annually.