Cultural Heritage Brings "Chinese Grass" New Vigor
Tan Zhixiang, 54, is witnessing the rising popularity of Liuyang Xiabu cloth, an intangible cultural heritage that originated in Liuyang City, central China's Hunan Province.
The cloth, made of ramie known as "Chinese grass," was exported to Japan and other countries as a hot commodity as early as the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). More than 100,000 bolts of the cloth were sold overseas each year in the 1980s and 1990s.
However, the cloth's production has declined due to its complex processing and other drawbacks. "More than 60 manufacturing processes are needed to make high-quality Xiabu cloth," said Tan. A lot of craftspeople who made the cloth, including Tan's wife, chose to find other jobs with higher pay.
As an inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage, Tan never gave up his dream of restoring the cloth's past popularity. Born into a family of cloth makers, he started to study the technique at the age of 12 and was also the family's fifth-generation cultural heritage inheritor.
"Every family in my hometown used the cloth especially in summer because it was breathable," said Lu Songyuan, who followed Tan to study how to make the cloth. "We should bring the cloth back into people's daily lives."
Lu spent more than a year studying the cloth and founded a company to promote it. He also designed bags, clothing and other products featuring the cloth.
In 2018, the company's products were exhibited at a fair in Paris. Yi Hongbo, a designer from Liuyang, also brought the cloth to New York's international fashion week. Now the cloth and related products have been sold to Japan, France and other countries worldwide.
Tan provided raw ramie materials to nearly 200 villagers, including some from poverty-stricken households, and organized them to process the cloth, helping them increase their income.
"As an intangible cultural heritage, the cloth reflects profound culture and wisdom," said Lu. "We hope to make the cloth a popular product by improving the quality of raw materials, refining the process and optimizing the design." Enditem