Huang Yongsong, a Taiwan folklorist began his "cultural dream" in 1971 when he was invited to start the English edition of the Hansheng. Also called Echo, this is a magazine with the mission to introduce Chinese folk culture to foreigners. He has been working hard for almost 36 years, diving deep into traditional Chinese culture.
Chinese Knots, one of China's most ancient folk arts, are beautiful plaited ornaments made with colorful silk threads. Nowadays, knots are widely used as ornaments for clothing as well as for decorations in houses. They have become popular all over the world and remain a symbol of traditional Chinese culture. The popularity of Chinese Knots can be largely attributed to Huang's great efforts. In 1980, in order to know more about the art of the traditional Chinese knot, Huang went to learn knotting methods from old craftsmen. A series of systematical theories on how to make Chinese knots was published with the title of The Chinese Knot, after Huang and his colleague found many kinds of traditional knotting methods scattered all around China. From then on, the Chinese Knot spread from Taiwan to the rest of the world.
Huang is deeply concerned with the protection of traditional Chinese arts. He went to Wenzhou in East China's Zhejiang Province to have an in-depth look at the situation of Jiaxie, or the clamp-resist dying method. Using this method, cloth can be dyed by clamping it between a pair of woodblocks, engraved with certain patterns. This centuries-old method is thought to be dying out. When Huang arrived at Wenzhou, the only workshop of clamp-resist dying products was about to be closed due to financial difficulties. The owner of the workshop told Huang his business could not go on, as few people came to buy clamp-resist dyed cloth any more. After hearing this, Huang ordered 1,000 pieces of Jiaxie cloth immediately and asked the owner to maintain the shop for at least for one year more.
In addition to Wenzhou's Jiaxie, Huang also paid attention to other traditional Chinese arts, including batik, popular in SW China's Guizhou Province. He even went to Guizhou to learn more about batik, also known as wax-resist dyeing, which is a form of dyeing or printing folk art created by applying beeswax to create different shapes.
(chinaculture July 20, 2006)