Qingyang, a district in the eastern part of Gansu Province in northwest China, is a traditional agriculture center. Its long history has left it with a rich cultural heritage.
The handicrafts and folk arts here include embroidery, paper cutting and shadow plays. The most representative of them is the embroidery. The local people say its history can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty, more than 1,000 years ago.
For generations, every young woman in Qingyang has been expected to master the art of embroidering. Their brightly colored works range from clothes to hats and shoes and from pillows to cushions and sachets. Take a look at the embroidered sachets, and you’ll find that the local culture and religion are ingeniously reflected in them. They are made in a great variety of different shapes and colors. The most popular are those which feature the 12 animals, including the rabbit, the tiger and the rooster, of the Chinese zodiac, and which symbolize the year in which a person is born.
The rich collection of embroidery pieces on display at the arts festival appeals to many visitors.
“They are so beautiful! I never dreamed that there could be so many types of embroidered sachet. I don’t think you could find as many in other places in the country. It shows how rich the folk culture is! I believe there’s a great market potential for these works of art.”
Indeed, to tap into the market with their exquisite handicraft works is the purpose of many participants at the arts festival. Dai Binglong is an official from Ningxian County, which has brought a wonderful variety of embroidered pieces to the event.
“Many people have never even heard of Ningxian. But the embroidery here has a long history and strong local characteristics. The festival provides us a good opportunity to introduce this local specialty to the outside world. We hope this will help push our economic development.”
Wang Yi, an official of Qingyang District, says the mention of Gansu Province reminds people of the Dunhuang Grottoes, hand-pulled beef noodles and Readers –- a magazine which enjoys nationwide popularity. But few people know anything about the local handicrafts, such as embroidery and paper cutting. Wang says they want to promote these folk arts and introduce them to the outside world.
“Compared with many other places, Qingyang is an undeveloped region. But we are not trying to catch up with the developed regions blindfolded. We’re going to make the best of our own advantages and specialties. Qingyang embroidery is a beautiful handicraft, and has a strong local flavor. Though the embroidered sachets are small, they have a great market potential. We believe this traditional art form will help us get rid of poverty. Hopefully, the embroidery in Gansu will one day become another symbol of the province.”
Jin Zhilin, an expert on Chinese folk culture, says folk art is an important part of Chinese culture. People should never neglect its protection while developing their economy.
“Chinese culture is a great treasure of the world. We should guard it and protect it so that it can be developed, handed down to future generations and made known to the rest of the world. It’s a good idea to develop the local economy by taking the advantages of the rich cultural heritage. In the meantime, we should pay special attention to the preservation of folk culture.”
(cri.com.cn July 2, 2002)