Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster: Transnational Home Making

Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster: Transnational Home Making

Wang Wei's set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

Wang Wei’s set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

To see the souvenir, and how Wang Wei handles her souvenir:

A close-up of the Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster

The placement of the Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster in Wang Wei’s:

the set of 4 Beijing Opera Facial Masks as souvenir: 

Wang Wei is a female Chinese from Tieling in Liaoning Province, which is in northeast of China. Being in her mid-twenty now, she has been living in UK for 5 years. She said she had spent the most beautiful years of her life in UK. Finishing her study in 2012, she and her Polish boyfriend (now her fiancée) moved to Reading and both found jobs in Reading. She and her fiancée mortgaged a comfortable two-story house in east Reading.

Firstly arrived in Wang Wei’s house is 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Sunlight penetrated the wide window on the wall dividing the garden and the living room. She invited me in and asked me to sit down on the sofa. While she was away in the kitchen fetching a cup of tea for me, I took the chance to observe her newly bought house. Water-blue wall paper was smoothly glued on the walls. The floor is clean. The sofa is dry, soft and clean. In front of me is a modern style glass coffee table which added extra life to the living room. The glass on the coffee table is clear and shiny, with reflection of bright window. There were some cakes and snacks on the coffee table. The coffee table has a black lower shelf, with some magazines, CDs and other things on it, well orgnised. Everything in this house were bright and new. They were new-borns in this family and were ready to have their own biography.

Wang Wei's living room

Wang Wei’s living room

While waiting for the water to boil, Wang Wei came out from kitchen, and took two beverage coasters from the black lower shelf, placed them on the coffee table. These two beverage coasters were ordinary ones, with some flowers on their surfaces.  Wang Wei went back to the kitchen and carried two mugs out with her, and placed them on the two floral beverage coasters.

Wang Wei seemed happy when we start talking about her souvenirs. She reached down to the black lower shelf, and took another beverage coaster. The souvenir Wang Wei going to introduce to me was among other mundane beverage coasters. Wang Wei’s beloved souvenir was a Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster. Like other beverage coasters, it was made of plastic and paper. What made it outstanding from other coasters, is there is an iron part in the centre of it, which can prevent the heat go through. This is a traditional Beijing Opera Facial Mask on the iron. It is an icon of China.​

Wang Wei's Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

She bought the souvenir object in August 2012 in Beijing Capital Airport, when she and her fiancée flied back to UK from Beijing after they went to pay a visit to Wang Wei’s family in China. I interviewed Wang Wei on 25 Oct 2014 @ her home in Reading, which was two years later after their trip in which they collected this souvenir. Back in 2012, it was her first time to bring her fiancée home to see her parents. Their transnational relationship has broadened the scale of this interview immediately.

When asked should souvenirs be produced locally and why, Wang Wei gave me a clear answer. Wang Wei explains: if it is sold in a tourist attraction spot it is better to be produced in that place, because it represents that place’s character. If it is sold in transporting places like airport, she is ok with souvenirs represent a larger scale to be sold. She offered an example, she is happy to see souvenirs represent other places in China to be sold in Beijing Capital Airport.

(follow up question: buy souvenirs representing where they have not been to, representing somewhere else)

Wang Wei holds a half open opinion for out-sourced souvenirs too. Firstly she stands in sellers’ shoes: to the sellers (who sell outsourced souvenirs in a tourist attraction) there must be some benefits. As we know, if the souvenirs are produced in countries like China and India where human labour is cheaper, the purchasing price  can go down a little bit, if sold at the same price, our-sourced souvenirs can bring more benefit to souvenir shops. But for foods, Wang Wei really prefers it to be produced locally, and even on the spot, because of the freshness.

Then we talked about the usage of this beverage coaster souvenir. Wang Wei thinks a souvenir coaster should be used as a coaster: glasses should be placed on it. “When I drink a cup of tea, I place my cup on this coaster… But since it has the Beijing Opera Facial Masks design on it, I handle it more carefully.” She explains how she use the Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster.

Wang Wei prefer to collect functional and practical souvenirs which will become handy at some points. She also displays photos in well-designed frames in the house.

There is an interesting point raised in Wang Wei’s interview: this Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster does not only reminds Wag Wei of beautiful and wonderful memories, but also unpleasant memories. “Every time I saw it it reminds me the flight in Beijing Capital Airport was delayed for two hours that day… Hehe… And how helpless my fiancée and I were…” Wang Wei’s face expression showed her unpleasantness was true and the souvenir did remind her about the unlucky times. But she indicated that she will keep this souvenir, no matter what.

In my opinion this souvenir plays a more important role in Wang Wei’s home-making which she herself has not thought of yet. Wang Wei originally came from China and now living in Britain with her Polish fiancée. Souvenirs from Poland and China would presumably have a huge impact on abstract conceptualization of home in Wang Wei’s case. Home is not just a place for relaxing activities but also being a meaningful place. Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster is a material and symbolic intersection of Wang Wei’s home and her homeland China.

In Wang Wei’s home, national symbols serve not only to make domestic paces home-like, but also to domesticate ideas of the nation, making Wang Wei partly feel like still living in her birth country. Souvenirs in home articulate domestic spaces to national experience (Noble, 2002:54)

The evidence of this opinion can be found in the ways how Wang Wei handle this Beijing Opera Facial Mask coaster. She confirms that she would not throw the souvenirs away even if it is broken in the future. The inner part of this souvenir is made of metal, but Wang Wei still think it is unsecure that she always have something representing China in her home. The solution is, she has back-ups.

Wang Wei's set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

Wang Wei’s set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

“It is from a set. This is the green face, which represents a deceitful person in Beijing Opera. There are red face, white face and black face in this set as well.” Wang Wei continues. As I go further asking whether she would throw them away if all in the set are broken, Wang Wei answers: “I don’t think they will be broken, but just the metal facial mask gets blurred. I think I will still keep them, they are souvenirs after all.”

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