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Disabled entrepreneur weaves a career

By ZOU SHUO in Changsha | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-21 09:57
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Yang Kaiqi embroiders at her Xiang embroidery store in Changsha, Hunan province. ZOU SHUO/CHINA DAILY

Overcoming years of struggle, Yang Kaiqi, who has half a left arm, embraces embroidery to earn a living

Yang Kaiqi believes that in a way, she's lucky that she grew up with a disability, rather than being a person who developed one later in life.

Born with half a left arm, she has never known what it's like to have two hands.

"I have met people who became disabled due to accidents and have trouble adjusting to their new reality, so luckily for me, I was born with a disability," she said.

The 35-year-old from a small village in Huaihua, Hunan province, has never placed limitations on herself. She now runs a Xiang embroidery store in Changsha, the provincial capital, and is happily married and has a 2-year-old boy.

Xiang embroidery is a national-level intangible cultural heritage that originated in Changsha.

In Chinese, Xiang is a short name for Hunan.

Xiang embroidery is one of the four best-known styles of the craft in China, along with Su embroidery from Suzhou, Jiangsu province; Shu embroidery, which is popular in Sichuan province and Chongqing; and Yue embroidery, which is famous in Guangdong province.

Featuring rich colors and sharp images, the Xiang style has a history of more than 2,000 years.

Yang said she has been interested in the craft since she was a child, when she learned some of the basics from one of her neighbors who is an embroiderer.

Though she has taken various training courses, she has mainly learned the techniques on her own through trial and error, she said.

More importantly, embroidery is a craft she can do despite her disability. "No matter which profession I chose, I needed to deal with the fact that I could only do it with one whole arm," she said.

"I decided to choose Xiang embroidery because I like it. The only inconvenience is that I cannot stitch as fast as others."

Yang has helped more than 1,000 disabled people learn the embroidery, teaching them for free. Whether they choose to learn it because they like it or want to make extra money, she said she is willing to help.

"For people with disabilities, we are not afraid of difficulties. We only worry about not having a fair chance to try something," she said.

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