Tie-Dye Craft A Bridge in Linking Traditional Culture, Modern Life

August 4, 2019  Editor: Wei Xuanyi
In 2013, Zhang returned home to establish Lanxu Green Culture Development Center, which was dedicated to promoting the sustainable, environmentally friendly lifestyle among members of minority groups in Yunnan, and to promoting their traditional culture. [Women of China]

 

Zhang Hanmin is a native of Zhoucheng, a village in Daili Bai Autonomous Prefecture, in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Zhoucheng, the largest Bai-inhabited village in China, is commonly referred to as the "hometown of tie-dyed items" and the "living fossil of Bai people's folk customs."

In September 2007, a short time after she graduated from Shaanxi Normal University, Zhang began teaching history at a middle school in Yuxi, a city in Yunnan Province. She also worked for the Community-driven Development (CDD) Pilot Project, implemented by the Foreign Capital Project Management Center, under the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. Within a short time, Zhang moved to Beijing to do community development-related work.

"I returned home during the Spring Festival of 2012. I noticed few young people carried baskets filled with tie-dyed items ... I missed the 'good old days,' when I was a little girl, when the fragrant smell of Indigowoad Root (a major raw material used to make the items) permeated Zhoucheng's air," recalls Zhang.

Given the amount of work, few young people, in her village and environs, are willing to study the tie-dye craft these days. That inspired her to establish an enterprise, in her hometown, to promote and develop the traditional craft.

A work of Zhang Hanmin [Women of China]

 

Starting Her Business

In 2013, Zhang returned home to establish Lanxu Green Culture Development Center, which was dedicated to promoting the sustainable, environmentally friendly lifestyle among members of minority groups in Yunnan, and to promoting their traditional culture. Zhang experienced numerous difficulties and setbacks during the first few years after she established Lanxu. Despite the difficulties, she and her employees carried on.

Zhang asked Yang Cuixian, a 90-year-old master of the craft in Zhoucheng, to teach her and her employees how to use Indigowoad Root to make indigo dye, so they could use the dye to make tie-dyed items. Yang also helped Zhang collect and sort out the items' patterns. Zhang was impressed by Yang's enthusiasm for the craft. Despite their advanced age, Yang and his wife tried their best to help Zhang and her employees increase their knowledge about the craft.

Some foreigners make tie-dyed items. [Women of China]

 

Pursuing Dream

In 2015, Zhang and her employees began using traditional methods to make tie-dyed items, in an effort to inherit the traditional cultural heritage and to promote development of the traditional craft. They used the sap of crofton weed (a herbaceous plant) to dye the cloth, which is environmentally friendly. They also asked elderly craftspeople to create handmade cloth.

In addition, Zhang and her employees conducted various activities, to help children, in their community, better understand the beauty of both their hometown and Bai people's traditional culture. "I hope, through the activities, we will sow the seeds of the dream of promoting our traditional culture in the children's hearts. Someday, the seeds will take root and grow into towering trees," says Zhang.

Despite her tight schedule, Zhang during the past four years has put much effort into collecting and sorting out tie-dyed items' patterns. "Fascinated by the stories (about the patterns), which Yang told me, I have realized the traditional craft represents a way of life ... While promoting the traditional craft, we have also developed many new products," says Zhang.

In Zhang's eyes, the process of creating the items is most beautiful. Why? Through the process, one may perceive harmony between humans and nature. To help visitors better understand Bai people's wisdom and their traditional culture, Lanxu provides services, so visitors may create the items with craftspeople's help.

When others ask Zhang how she and her employees promote Lanxu, Zhang replies, "I believe the better, more multiple services we provide to our visitors, the more people will help us promote our center."

From October 9-15, 2018, Dali Tourism Resort conducted various activities to promote the Chinese Government's call for Chinese to promote entrepreneurship and economic innovation. The resort designated Lanxu as the first experimental base (in Dali) to promote the call. The base has established a bridge in linking traditional culture and modern life. Visitors to the base may make tie- dyed items under the guidance of the inheritors of the craft.

Some tie-dyed items [Women of China]

 

(Women of China English Monthly August 2019 issue)

 

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