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Artisan breathes fresh life into She jewelry

By CHENG SI in Beijing and HU MEIDONG in Fuzhou | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-10-20 09:28
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Lin Weixing records the history and culture of the She ethnic group through his silverware, which he hopes will pass on the group's cultural heritage while adding innovative elements to give it added commercial value.

Born into a family of artisans, the 43-year-old was influenced as a child by his father, Lin Shiyuan, who is known for his great accomplishments in silverware.

In February 2018, Lin Weixing was listed as one of Fujian's intangible cultural heritage inheritors for She silverware, a tradition with a history of more than 200 years.

Inspired by daily life, Lin's designs emphasize both their practical use and relationship with people.

"We call our pieces 'beauty with a practical use'. First of all, many can really be used. We hope that our designs have a life and use for their owners, rather than just being hung on walls as decorations," he said. "We also control the costs of each piece to make it possible to sell them more easily."

"It's really interesting that folk customs vary from area to area, even in the same province. We do a lot of research in different counties and cities and visit museums and historical sites like ethnic She villages to find inspiration," he added.

Lin believes that the phoenix coronet is particularly important to inheritors of the She silver-making tradition.

"It's the mythological symbol of the group. She women enjoy rather high social status because of a folk tale in which the first She ancestor, Pan Hu, married a daughter of the Gaoxin Emperor, who wore a splendid phoenix coronet at the time," he said.

"She women wear similar coronets at important events in their whole lives," he added. "We inheritors create phoenix coronets using new skills and elements to pass on She culture."

Lin is far from old-fashioned. He started running an e-commerce silver jewelry site back in 2017. "We are not the early birds actually, but we have very successful brand positioning in the sector," he said. "Running an online shop is different from running a brick-and-mortar workshop in terms of management, product design and selling."

The online platform helped save his business as stores and workshops were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Sales at physical stores saw dramatic declines during the pandemic, hitting rock-bottom and losing a lot at the time," he said.

"I was lucky that we had made the transition to online business. During Qixi, the traditional Chinese Valentine's Day in mid-August, one of our silver designs sold over 10,000 pieces. It was a big success for the team."

Lin believes that although making She silver jewelry is traditional work, fashionable elements can also be incorporated.

"The internet has broken the boundaries for us in terms of sales. We have customers not only in Fujian and other parts of China, but all over the world," he said. "We should first produce silver jewelry with trendy elements and be more confident in the appeal of our traditional culture.

"Let the jewelry speak for itself and watch the industry with a sharp eye. The designs are thought-provoking and can become classic pieces in the future."

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