Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Culture / News and Feature

Traditional dyeing craft prevented by craftswoman from dying

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-08-29 10:07
Share - WeChat

In traditional Chinese medicine, herbs are often used to help treat illness. But, in the hands of Qi Hui, the herbs can turn into works of art.

It is hard to believe that the beautiful colors of the wallets, scarves and handbags in Qi's studio are all dyed using herbs.

The 40-year-old inheritor of the time-honored dyeing craft hails from Dingxi city, in Northwest China's Gansu province, where the craft with a history spanning centuries is now under county-level protection as a local intangible cultural heritage.

Dingxi boasts myriad herbal medicines. The local specialty, combined with China's tradition of hand-dyeing, led to the birth of the old craft.

"When I was a child, my grandmother used to fork up the roots of plants grown in the mountains and then boil them to help dye clothing. I can still recall that lovely shade of orange of the clothing. I was captivated by the charm of the traditional dyeing method," Qi says, adding that it was from her grandmother that she learned ancient crafts including hand-dyeing, embroidery and paper-cutting.

For Qi, dyeing with the help of natural herbs remains the most fascinating. "In modern society, it's common to use chemicals for dyeing, but the traditional way of extracting coloring pigments from herbs can be both fashionable and natural," says Qi.

The primitive method demands huge reserves of patience, as specific alkaline pigments must be boiled within an appropriate time period at around 20 C. "Even a one-minute difference can result in the wrong color," Qi explains.

Such a perfect integration of the old craft and modern textiles soon won the hearts of consumers. In 2016, with the support of the local government, Qi established her studio to produce more artwork using dyeing, embroidery and handbag making skills.

She also trained hundreds of rural women workers for free, hoping that their participation in the tradition would help local women lead better lives. Wang Meier, a villager, earned about 6,000 yuan ($876) during her two-month training course in the studio.

"Young people are essential to the development of rural China. As a member of the younger generation, I view devoting myself to the rural development cause as my long-term endeavor and commitment," Qi adds.

In 2019, Qi registered a company to produce and sell handicrafts built upon the traditional dyeing method. More than 70 employees work in her company, including 60 casual workers who can embroider and dye clothing in their spare time without interfering with their daily farm work. The company has now received about 10,000 orders.

Qi is now head of Dingxi's intangible cultural heritage association. She plans to further explore the artistic value of the old dyeing craft.

"I hope that the traditional art can help spread traditional Chinese culture and allow more to be touched by its beauty. It's also my dream to help more women to earn a better life through their own hard work," Qi says.

Most Popular
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349