Tue, 07 Dec 2021

© Provided by Xinhua

NANNING, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Sitting in front of a traditional wooden loom, 76-year-old Li Yanfen, a member of China's Zhuang ethnic minority group, started weaving brocade as usual.

Zhuang brocade, together with Yun brocade, Shu brocade and Song brocade are listed as the four famous brocades in China. In 2006, Zhuang brocade weaving skills were included in the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage lists.

Living in Longzhou County of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, one of the areas where Zhuang brocade was born, Li was good at weaving and could finish a 20-cm-long brocade every day.

"Used as dowry by Zhuang people in the past, the brocade used to be a method to test if a girl was diligent and ingenious. However, traditional brocade skills were fading because the brocade then was thick, heavy, and not useful for making clothes," said Li.

The year 2016 ushered in a new stage of inheritance and development of Zhuang brocade. Guangxi Jinzhuangjin Culture and Art Co., Ltd. joined hands with Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Museum and Guangxi Weaving and Embroidery Development Research Association to establish Longzhou brocade workshop to develop cultural and creative products from Zhuang brocade.

Like Li, nearly 60 women participated in the workshop where they wove brocade for 2 to 4 hours every day with an annual salary of over 10,000 yuan (1,546 U.S. dollars) while taking care of family members.

Li Donglian, 39, who started to learn weaving from her mother at the age of 14, is a well-known weaver in her village. In the past, she had to work elsewhere to make a living. But in 2016, she was given an opportunity to be an ethnic brocade weaver back in her village.

To inherit and promote the craft, she organized female villagers to weave brocade and learn new skills, becoming a leader of weavers and beginning to engage in product development.

"I have a stable income and I am happy that I can inherit and carry forward the Zhuang brocade culture, while taking care of my family," said Li Donglian.

"A total of 18 households have been lifted out of poverty through weaving brocade," said He Ka, chairwoman of Guangxi Jinzhuangjin Culture and Art Co. Her company set up six weaving workshops in Guangxi, benefiting a large number of people in ethnic minority areas.

Zhuang brocade has also entered the global market. The brocade woven out of cotton yarn and silk thread in Li Yanfen's village is transported to Italy.

Italian designer Giancarlo Mossi Borella, a business partner of He, witnessed the development of the brocade.

In December, 2019, Borella led a team to Longzhou to study local weaving skills at a brocade workshop.

"When I came to the village, it was like entering a magical land and I felt the charm of brocade and Chinese culture," said Borella. He hoped his design inspired by the Zhuang brocade could showcase Chinese culture to the world.

Amid the pandemic, the Chinese and Italian teams worked via online video conferences to discuss the patterns, styles, fabrics and other details of the brocade products. So far, the first batch of designed products are under production.

Borella said that the Chinese Zhuang brocade has appeal in the European market. In the future, they will take advantage of events, such as the fashion week, to further promote Zhuang brocade culture in Europe.

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