I went to Hong Kong for work. I came back with too many notebooks, too many Uni Style + Fit refills, too many linen tops from Muji, and not enough booty from Man Luen Choon, Chinese Cultural and Artist Supplies.
Man Luen Choon is online, and has an English sitemap, which is not comprehensive but is still helpful. I and my poor sense of direction got on the MTR at Causeway Bay, and got off at Sheung Wan. I knew I was on the right track when I saw the Unicorn Trade Centre. Of course there were unicorns where I was going. How could there not be?
I crossed the street and almost missed the right turn into Wing Kut street. Note to those who wish to go: turn right into Wing Kut before Mannings. And after you take two steps, look up. Otherwise you’ll miss the only sign.
Take the elevator to the second floor. Avoid all surly people exiting. And as soon as the elevator door opens, you will be greeted with a very happy sight.
The shop is packed with books and art supplies, all of which made me wish that I knew Chinese. Every surface has something on it. I had to pause to make sure I wasn’t drooling on the parquet floor. That tower to the left is liquid ink, from super cheap to super expensive; brushes; palettes in plastic and porcelain. To the right is paper, and books, books, books.
There is another tower of brushes, and more brushes to the left and right of the tower. You want horse, rabbit, goat, wolf, chicken, mixed? You want vegetables? Tea? (Okay, no vegetables, unless bamboo handles count.) (No tea either.)
There is a brush for everyone. Everyone.
I was lucky there was a lady who could explain to me what the different brushes were for, and who gave me advice on which ones to get. She believes in experimentation, though, and says that’s why they stock so many different kinds of brushes, because everyone has their own way of using the brush which they must discover.
She told me not to get a large brush if I was only going to use the tip for fine lines, as it would be a waste.
There is a bewildering assortment of paper, bound or loose, big rolls, small rolls, colored, handmade, gilt, plain. There are even fans ready to be painted.
Color abounds, in cakes, ready-to-use palettes, Japanese, Chinese, pigments in tubes waiting to be crushed and mixed with your choice of binder.
You can learn to carve your own chop. There are sets for beginners, and blank chops and carving tools for the more learned.
There are many cinnabar pastes to choose from. Ink sticks, ink in bottles, ink in tubes – I suspect if you asked for charcoal, binder, and a mortar and pestle, they’d have those in stock too.
I left the shop with paper, brushes, ink, and an additive which is supposed to produce cloud-like effects. I do wish I’d gotten pigment to experiment with, and the beginners’ chop carving set. Then again, I now have more to look forward to when I return.