When Souchong was a very little girl in a very little village in the vast Chinese Guangdong province and had had a very bad day, her beloved mother would give her a little squeeze and then put on the teakettle to boil. Silently, Souchong and her mother would unroll a tatami mat and set a low table, laying out cups as tiny, elegant and rare as a starling’s nest. When the teakettle wailed, Souchong’s mother poured water over jasmine tea and the leaves unfurled like a yawn, releasing an ambrosia of fragrant steam. Then, in a voice as melodic as a wind chime, Souchong’s mother would tell a tale. The tales were of opulent dynasties, valorous ninjas, clever geishas, and magical animals that granted wishes in exchange for kindness and bravery and soon, very soon, the steam from the tea would iron away the furrow in Souchong’s mother’s brow along with Souchong’s bad day.
Souchong grew into a lovely young woman with a gentle and generous spirit, but when her marriage was arranged, it was to a petulant and self-centered boy with a disapproving mouth as pursed as a jiaozi. No amount of tea could soothe this heartbreak and Souchong ran to the garden and hid in the crumbling pagoda-shaped gazebo under the kumquat tree she’d so loved playing in as a child. She cradled one of the precious teacups in her hands as she cried, and soon her tears filled it to overflowing and she slept. When the moon had risen high in the sky, her mother crept out to the pagoda carrying a tray with tea that Souchong had never tasted before, a plate of dumplings and a moon cake topped with a shiny red bean. She dropped the dumpling in the cup of Souchong’s tears and whispered, “Eat.” After Souchong finished the soup, her mother poured the odd bluish tea and murmured, “Drink.” Then she handed Souchong the moon cake and said, “Dream.” Souchong dropped back off to sleep almost immediately.
When she awoke, Souchong found the pagoda transformed. Intricately painted in the richest of colors and burnished with accents of gold, it had apparently sprung a set of wheels and a motor. An enormous fancy teakettle was hitched to the back of it. A lark sang in a beautiful cage set on a small table, but Souchong’s mother was nowhere to be found. Souchong found a note under a tall vase of lilies and chrysanthemum written in her mother’s perfect handwriting. It said, “Be kind, be brave, be clever and above all, share with the world what you know best.” The lark chirped in agreement. And so Souchong set off into the countryside and became the legendary Madame Oolong, Ambassador of Tea. She soon gained two new companions, Ceylon and Keemun, to help her in her endeavors. When spring comes and the cherry trees blossom, keep an eye out for Madame Oolong’s Traveling Teahouse. You can steam away your worries over a fragrant cup and nibble on an astonishing array of dim sum while listening to stories about opulence, valor and wit and hear a musical lark sing of the magic of a mother’s love. The Sad Bride’s Soup and Magic Moon Cake are available by special request, should you have a need for them.
Madame Oolong and her two assistants are depicted in the 8” x 10” x 3/4” original collage constructed on a handpainted stretched gallery canvas with meticulously handcut vintage images, walnut ink, and textured art paper and is accented with molded paper flowers, rivets, satin ribbon, pearl accents and Dresden trim. Finished on the back with beautiful cherry blossom paper, signed and fitted with hanging hardware, this piece does not require a frame.
This original artwork and story are copyright Ramona Szczerba 2013. Copyright to this material is in no way transferable with the sale of this item. The buyer is not entitled to any reproduction rights – neither image nor story can be reproduced without my express written permission. Thanks!