What is Zen philosophy all about?

Written by Julia Ruston

Zen: have you ever wondered what this word means? Having become an umbrella concept for a kind of oriental lifestyle and aesthetic, the true meaning of Zen is much more profound and mystical than its use in the mainstream culture. For starters, Zen is a form of spiritual philosophy and means “meditation” in Japanese. The philosophy is part of a school of Buddhism called Mahayana Buddhism which emphasizes practical and experiential wisdom instead of the study of philosophical and religious texts. The purpose of Zen is the realization of the self and its practice requires the direct experience of the self as the only viable way to manifest one’s nature.

This article will take you through the history and distinctive features of Zen philosophy. It will give you some ideas on how to apply its teachings to improve our mental and physical health and how to live a more fulfilling life.

The History behind Zen Philosophy

So… let’s go back to where the Zen philosophy started. Historically, Zen is a branch of Buddhism which developed in India around 2500 years ago and then came to China 500 years after. It received its name “Zen” once it arrived in Japan 1000 years later. Although its focus is on self-reflection and realization by transforming the psychological structure of the mind, it is also deeply rooted in the teachings of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama.

The Principles of Zazen

You may be asking yourself: But how are you supposed to achieve self-realization? Well, Zen philosophy fundamental practice is zazen or as we commonly know it, meditation. Zazen is founded on the seated posture, where Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment. It is also founded on the elements of mindfulness, which are part of the fundamental teaching of the Buddha known as the Eightfold Path. Zazen is a prioritized daily practice, but it is also important for Zen philosophy to practice as part of a group in order to communicate and grow from each other’s perceptions and points of view. Usually, this group experience centers around a Zen teacher who guides the pupils through meditations and scripture study as well as performing certain rituals.

Zen in the modern world

Now how does this tie in with Zen living nowadays and especially in modern society? 

Well, since Zen living is all about living in harmony with our true essence and cultivates intuitive wisdom, we should use this wisdom to bring peace and harmony to this world. As one renowned Zen teacher puts this: We should live life through Zen. Philip Kapleau refers to Zen as “a one-pointed aware mind; of a disciplined life of simplicity and naturalness as against a contrived and artificial one; of a life compassionately concerned with our own and the world’s welfare and not self-centered and aggressive. A life, in short, of harmony with the natural order of things and not in constant conflict with it.”

How to apply to our everyday life

To achieve this, take note of these small tips on how to create a more present and meaningful life! It will help you to stop and fully embrace your existence since we are usually just doing things non-stop and we find ourselves caught up in our heads with a million worries and thoughts at once.

  1. Live mindfully: Although mindfulness has been a buzz word recently, it truly is crucial and usually lacking in our current lifestyle. Being fully aware and present in each moment can help you cultivate this awareness and lead to living a more peaceful and harmonious life. It’s all about enjoying and fully living the moment, whether that having fun with our family or cleaning the toilet, as long as we are trying not to ruminate or worry about a future meeting at work.
  1. The more simple and natural, the better! Understanding that less is more and being aware of how this affects the state of our mind as well as accepting things fully as they come or “going with the flow of things” so to speak.
  1. Be compassionate and loving: We should be concerned for our own well-being as well as the well-being of all other beings and place this as a priority.

Now that you know a bit about the background of Zen philosophy and some small tips on how to incorporate this way of living into your life, I hope you can see that Zen philosophy is much more than just an aesthetic and is a truly powerful mindset. I’m sure we have all felt like we need a little more Zen in our life at some point and by that, I mean nearly every day!

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

From Silk Worm to Silk Scarf – A 5,000-Year-Old Journey

Written by Helen McGlade  

Sumptuous silks in a Multitude of Colours

Dearest reader, let me welcome you into the enchanting world of silk production! Silk is one of the earliest fabrics made in history; it was first production over 5,000 years ago! Bet you didn’t know that this gorgeous material has also been instrumental in politics, uniting continents and countries through international trade along the Silk Roads. Wars have broken out over who dominates the silk market and many a heart has been stolen by the fluttering of a silk scarf. All in all, an influential fabric! 

Map of the Ancient Silk Road

Fun Facts about silk!  

  • Silk, although lustrous and lightweight, is actually incredibly strong: a silk filament is stronger than a filament of steel of the same diameter!  
  • Did you know that China is the world’s largest producer of silk? Each year, China produces 150,000 metric tons, accounting for 78% of the world’s produce!  
  • This tantalising textile has not just been used for clothing. Along the Silk Road in Central Asia, silk was actually used as a form of currency between 300-400AD. Try telling that to the shopkeeper next time you’re out buying milk! 
Bombyx Mori Silk Worms Eating Mulberry Leaves

Step 1 – Sericulture  

The first important step in the process of silk production is known as sericulture. This term is used to describe the gathering of silk worms (Bombyx Mori to use their scientific name) and harvesting their cocoons. Silk moths lay eggs, which then hatch into silk worms. These worms eat a huge amount of mulberry leaves: to produce 1 kg of silk, 104 kg of mulberry leaves must be eaten by 3000 silkworms! Once the worms have grown enough (they must be roughly 10,000 times heavier than when they hatch), they raise their heads and begin to spin their cocoons – a process that takes 2 to 3 days. These cocoons are next harvested and boiled to loosen the silk filaments. Look away animal rights activists; the silk worms are killed in the boiling process, but do not go to waste as they are usually roasted and eaten as a tasty snack! The silk threads are incredibly fine, so between 3 to 10 strands are wound together ready for the dying process. 

Rainbow Silks

Step 2 – Dyeing  

This part is great fun! The silk thread is now dyed in a multitude of glorious colours. Traditionally, dyes come from fruit or indigo plants, but in the modern silk industry, many dyes are synthetic, allowing for a greater variety of colours to be produced.  

A Traditional Spinning Wheel – Don’t Prick Your Finger!

Step 3 + 4 – Spinning & Weaving 

The rainbow threads then undergo the spinning process. A spinning wheel evokes fairy tales such as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ for me – are there spinning wheels in your culture’s folklore? Spinning unwinds the dyed threads and rewinds them onto a bobbin ready for… can you guess?… the weaving process! A loom is used to bind two threads together, interlocking and forming a strong, uniform piece of fabric. The finish of the silk depends on the type of weaving, such as satin weave, plain weave or open weave. 

A Hand-Painted Silk Fan

Step 5 – Printing  

The next step, lovely reader, is incredibly versatile and really gives piece of silk its own individual personality.  The silk is now printed; in the modern day, this is often done digitally, though more traditionally, screen printing is used. Screen printing is where a design is sketched on a fine mesh screen, laid over the silk and dye is applied according to the design. If the design includes multiple colours, each colour must be applied individually and then left to dry before the next is added. Other methods of decorating silk include hand painting. In Vietnam, silk is often used as a canvas for beautiful pieces of art, traditionally showcasing landscapes or scenes from daily life.  

Vietnamese Silk Painting

Step 6 – Finishing  

Finally, our gorgeous silk has almost completed its long journey. The final step is ‘finishing’ the silk, where different chemical treatments are applied to give the fabric the glimmering sheen silk is known for. This step can also add important properties such as resistance to creases or fire! 

An Array of Silk Scarves

And there you have it! From a silk worm to a silk scarf, you now know how silk is produced and made into the fabulously versatile fabric we know today. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the silk process, leave a comment and let me know what you think! Be sure to check out our other blog on silk brocade while you’re here too! 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

The Ancient Art of Bamboo Drifting

Written by Emma Marler

The art of bamboo drifting is breathtakingly beautiful and original. It is typical of the Guizhou region in South-Western China and it is extremely unique. Before a video of this magical dance was posted by Great Big Story, an account that has 5 million subscribers on Youtube (hyperlink the video), it was an unknown art.

So what is bamboo drifting? Let’s find out!

It originated during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) as a means of transport. In fact, the city of Zunyi in Guizhou was renowned for its production of a very precious and expensive wood and it was greatly demanded by the emperors in the North of China. The problem was that in Guizhou they didn’t have big enough boats to carry the logs, so they rewarded citizens to stand and sail on one log each in order to transport them to the first destination that had adequate boats to continue the journey.

As time passed, riders became more experienced and competitive, challenging each other in balancing games and acrobatic movements. Even when in later years transporting the logs on the river was no longer a necessity, Guizhou residents never gave up their hobby. During the Qing dynasty, wood was then substituted by bamboo due to its cheaper costs and bamboo drifting competitions became extremely popular. During the Dragon Boat Festival, communities from all over Guizhou reunite to assist to different competitions, including bamboo drifting.

The biggest challenge with bamboo drifting is that the surface of the water is in constant movement so keeping your body balanced requires double the effort. For every movement you make your body shakes so you have to be able to control it, otherwise you’ll fall in the river!

Bamboo drifting started as an individual practice, one person only stood on the log to transport it. Nowadays there is not just single bamboo drifting but couple drifting as well. The Zunyi Bamboo Drifting Association started a new performance called ‘Ballet on Water’. Two dancers share one single piece of bamboo, it’s  double the difficulty!

Bamboo drifting was listed in the National Traditional Games of Ethnic Minorities, an event which takes place every four years and showcases traditional games of every one of the 56 ethnic minorities in China.

Guizhou is the most multicultural region in China, therefore bamboo drifting is not typical of just one ethnic group. The Miao Hmong people are one of the minorities that have taken part in this tradition for a long time and love to wear their silver jewelry when performing!

Since at Interact China we are very passionate about keeping traditions alive, we really hope that the amazing art of bamboo drifting does not disappear. The women that manage the Zunyi Bamboo Drifting Association and train newcomers are now over 70. If young people lose interest, there is a chance that this beautiful and unique performance art will stop being practiced. Let’s spread the word and keep bamboo drifting going!

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

The Modernization of Traditional Chinese Hanfu and Qipao

It is difficult to define traditional Chinese clothing as one specific style since there are so many different types of clothing and styles depending on the time and dynasty, they appeared in. However, if we were to highlight two very distinct traditional garments as the most well-known and influential, these would be the Hanfu, which literally means “Han Dynasty clothing” in Chinese, and the qipao, which translates as “the Qi people gown”. Although, these are both some of the oldest traditional clothing, they still have a great influence in modern Chinese fashion, referred to as the modern qipao or “New” Hanfu and qipao.

Let’s look at the history behind these two traditional garments and their evolution to their modernized version in today’s Chinese fashion.

The Hanfu:

Hanfu is a traditional Chinese outfit which has been prevalent for a long time in Chinese history as it appeared firstly in the Qin Dynasty, 200 B.C, until the Ming Dynasty, around the year 1600. As mentioned before, Hanfu refers to the Han people clothing, thus it was created for the Han people and distinguishes itself from the clothing of other ethnic minority groups. In the Western Zhou Dynasty, hanfu was used to indicate a person’s social status as it was a time of strict hierarchical set up. Can you believe that the differences in the length of a skirt or the wideness of a sleeve were an indication of a person’s rank in society?

A traditional Hanfu is a long gown, with long sleeves and a sash used to secure the garment around the waist instead of buttons. It is characterized by colorful embroidery and a crossed collar with a right lapel (the left collar crosses over the right one). The two main designs a Hanfu can have is either as a one-piece dress or as a two-piece skirt or trouser combo which includes underwear, an inner layer and an overcoat. To complete the traditional costume accessories such as a jade belt and jewelry as well as a shawl are added.

On the other hand, the “new Hanfu” has more influence from the Western style of clothing and thus, integrates these aforementioned traditional characteristics of the traditional Hanfu with a more functional and stylish touch. The goal of the new Hanfu was to bring back wearing it in everyday life since it had become a garment used only for special occasions or formal events. This was because the traditional Hanfu gained a reputation for being inconvenient and difficult to wear compared to alternative modern clothing. By making the modern Hanfu comfortable and more varied in style it became popular to wear everyday especially for young people, children and teachers. The main elements of Hanfu are still maintained like the cross-collar, silk embroidery and retro patterns but designers have focused on making the shape of the Hanfu more fitted and unique to each body. Designers are willing to adapt Hanfu to the needs of today, which keep changing and shifting, and bring its own flair and style to present life.

Qipao

Qipao was a garment which appeared in the 1920s inspired by the long gown type garments worn in the Qing Dynasty by the Manchu people. It evolved to become the qipao which was named “national dress” up until the 1950s. Traditionally, it was a long, loose dress which had no slits or very short slits in the side. It is usually made of silk and is embroidered with different kinds of flowers, with thick laces trimmed at the collar, sleeves and edges. Qipao was initially designed for upper class women as it tried to convey their elegance and modesty and so it was not meant to be very displaying!

This meant that, originally, the dress covered the whole body almost completely and very loosely. This was hardly considered fashionable or stylish even at that time! That’s why in the 1930s, the traditional qipao was redesigned, adding western patterns to exalt the beauty and curves of a woman’s body. Today, qipao has regained its popularity and is mostly worn for special or formal occasions and has a much more westernized influence and appeal. The main differences which characterize the modern qipao are its fitted cut, right side knot buttons and two wide openings at both sides of the hips. With this regained popularity, factory made qipaos has become widely sold in Chinese shops, but it is hard to find good quality tailor made ones. If you are looking for an excellent quality qipao, Interact China is the right place to buy it! We partner with professional tailors to provide you with a handmade craftsmanship with delicate details and quality materials. Below are some examples of the qipaos we sell, which are divided into Deluxe velvet, premium silk and vintage cocktail qipaos.

Despite the distinctive characteristics which draw the Hanfu and qipao apart, they both have a deep cultural meaning which is kept alive through the transformation to more modern versions of the original garment. So, which one do you prefer? We would love to know your thoughts in the comments and hope you have learnt a bit more about the culture and history of traditional Chinese clothing!

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Overtone Singing in Mongolia

By Tom Booth

Mongolian overtone throat singing or khöömii (meaning ‘throat’ in Monglian) is an extremely ancient musical performance that is a national and classical art form of Mongolia, Tuva and Siberia. This short blog post will provide a brief introduction to the musical performance of throat singing. First, this blog post will detail the history of throat singing in Mongolia; second, it will discuss how throat singing is performed and the different types of throat singing; third, it will elaborate on the cultural and spiritual importance of throat singing in Mongolian culture.

The Origins of Throat Singing

The origins of Mongolian throat singing are shrouded in mystery. Early travellers such as Marco Polo refer to musicians and singers in Mongolian court and at home, but the act of throat singing is never explicitly mentioned, nor does the word khöömii appear anywhere in his travel documents. The earliest reference to the musical performance of khöömii is found in Chinese documents translated in the sixteenth century by Jesuit missionaries. 

For Mongolians, the origins of khöömii are mystical and legendary. Epic poems and stories recount fierce wrestlers and warriors who could channel wind through their chest and throat to create beautiful melodies that mimicked gusts of wind. Mongolian herders would use throat singing to call their yaks and sing their children to sleep.

In more recent times, throat singing has had a patterned history. Before the revolution in 1921 throat singing was not highly valued by society, partly due to its links to folk shamanistic religions, which was the national religion of Mongolia. However, under the Mongolian People’s Republic it was imbued with a special cultural power and was celebrated as representing the voice of the people. Although the People’s Republic collapsed in 1990, overtone singing continued to be a highly celebrated part of Mongolia’s cultural heritage. Since 2010 the Mongolian Traditional Art of Khöömii was added onto UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, showing the importance of throat singing not only in Mongolia but throughout the world.

Performing Khöömii

The basis of throat singing is the superimposition of two or more simultaneous sounds with the mouth. The two main components are the fundamental tone ‘drone’ and the harmonic melody ‘overtones.’ The drone can reach an exceptionally low pitch, while the overtone has a flute-like quality. 

Within the broad discipline of throat singing exist two main styles: the first is a deep khöömii or kharkhiraa khöömii and the whistle khöömii or isgeree khöömii. Different sounds are produced using the lips, palate of the mouth, the nose, the throat, and the chest cavity. These sounds are then combined with speaking, singing or humming to produce elaborate and complex pieces of music. The melody can be changed by changing the shape of the resonant cavity of the mouth and throat, and by manipulating the tongue and other muscles in the throat.

Check out this link if you’re interested in trying yourself!:

Cultural Significance of Khöömii

Historically, khöömii was only ever performed by men. This is in part due to shamanistic beliefs. The act of singing khöömii is often conducted with the utmost respect. A mantra is often read before the performance, as singing is considered an act of ethereal interconnectedness with the human spirit. Khöömii also often plays a significant role in the ritual performance of epic stories from Mongolian history.

The historic exclusivity of male performers is also related to physical strength required to reach the lowest and highest notes of the drone and melody. This physical aspect is why Mongolian wrestlers have historically been the most famous performers in Mongol society. However, in recent times the performance art has been opened up to Mongolian women as well.

Concluding thoughts

This blog post only scratches the surface of the rich and varied culture of throat singing in Mongolia. Hopefully this may inspire more people to take an interest in this rich cultural heritage and to preserve it for future generations. The performance of throat singing is also not limited to Mongolia, but can be found in many different cultures along the Altai mountain range and elsewhere.

Currently throat singing is experiencing somewhat of a revival. Check out popular performers such as these, these and these on YouTube!

Liu Xiaodong and Chinese Neorealist painting

By Emma Marler

The Neorealism movement lies on the need of artists to represent reality as it is, without embellishments or abstractions. As Zhang Xiaoming, head of Chinese contemporary art at Sotheby’s New York, puts it: “Neorealists look at everyday life subjects, but glorify them.” 

Xuzi at Home (2010), oil on canvas – Liu Xiaodong

In Italy for example, Neorealism was a response to the huge changes the two World Wars brought about in daily life and society. In China, Neorealist painters tried to capture reality as everything in the country was changing drastically and developing at high speed. During the Cultural revolution, a realistic style of painting served propaganda purposes and political agendas.

Cultural Revolution Propaganda Poster (1966-1976)

Since the 1980s, Chinese Neorealist painters chose to depict urban and rural snippets of daily life without any filter, they just depicted exactly what they saw and felt.

Liu Xiaodong is one of the most talented and famous artists in the Neorealist scene. According to world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei, Liu Xiaodong “presents the wounds” of China. He always works on large scale canvases, perhaps to give even more reality to his subjects. His paintings are always carefully constructed and he often uses sitters to pose for his scenes.

Out of Beichuan, into Taihu (2010) – Liu Xiaodong

One of his most significant series of paintings was The Hotan project. He decided to go to the town Hotan in Xinjiang where jade has been extracted and produced for centuries. The environment has completely changed due to human intervention. He spent a month there, talking to locals and learning the backstories of the place before starting to paint. In the next two pictures you can see his process of en plein air painting, from the backstage to the finished product.

Liu Xiaodong at work
South (2012), oil on canvas

Another subject that is often represented in his paintings is the condition of migrant workers. Disobeying the Rules is a crude image of naked workers on a truck, expressing the artist’s concern for working conditions since China’s development and industrialisation. The workers are looking straight at the viewer and smiling, showing their optimism even in such a humiliating condition.

Disobeying the Rules (1963), oil on canvas

This painting sold at auction for 6 million euros! Liu shot this picture in Beijing and then added his own spin to the narrative to make the scene more impactful and shock viewers, forcing them to think about this pressing social issue.

As his works became internationally appreciated, he focused on new subjects and places. His method is always the same: he talks to locals and then starts painting. His Half street series had Londoners as protagonists.

White Pub (2013)

What makes him so unique is his ability to paint people in a sincere and touching way. The subjects of his works always seem to come to life while you stare at them.

Shu Jun with his Chubby Son (2010)

The way Vinci Chang, head of sales for 20th-century Chinese art and Asian contemporary art at Christie’s Hong Kong,  sums up Neorealism is truly to the point. He describes Neorealist works as “rich, moving depictions of the feel of daily life and they examine with a humanitarian eye the unaffected simplicity and beauty of local scenes”.


About Interact China

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Top 5 Ethnic Minorities’ Festivals You Need to Know About

In China, the 55 ethnic minorities comprise approximately 8.5% of the whole population and have rich cultural customs that celebrate their diversity and tradition. Despite being such a small percentage of the Chinese population, they usually live in smaller communities and place much importance in maintaining their cultural heritage and customs alive. This means that they have many fascinating and meaningful celebrations that bring the community together.

One of the main ways of celebrating and promoting tradition is through festivals. This blog talks about some of the most renown festivals that some ethnic minorities celebrate. They inevitably attract many tourists as it is a privilege to experience them in person and are charged with tradition, cultural heritage and customs. However, even reading about these festivals can help you understand and learn a bit about the rich cultures of some of these ethnic minorities.

Ethnic Miao Group’s New Year Festival

First on the list is the most important festival of the year for the ethnic Miao people. This is the celebration of the beginning of a new year and unlike most Western cultures, where New Year’s day is always celebrated on the same day, this festival varies depending on the year and region. The exact dates are only disclosed a few months before so if you are interested in experiencing the festival yourself you may celebrate New Year’s day twice that year as the festival is usually celebrated around November! This festival is remarkable to see, so if you’re up for it, the grandest celebration occurs in the Leishan County in the Guizhou Province where it is recommended for tourists.

The Miao people dedicate this festival to celebrate the harvest of rice and so the star drink in this festival is traditional rice wine made from the harvest. A key element of the festival is to worship the ancestors by offering them fruit and meat in sign of remembrance and respect. One of the most characteristic customs is the traditional dances and music of the Miao people. These dances and parades are usually accompanied by a traditional musical instrument made from bamboo, the Lusheng, and young children dance to this music whilst dressed in their traditional magnificent costumes all covered in grand silver ornamentation. One of the most significant activities of the festival is bullfighting as it is a traditional event for Miao people.

Tibetan Shoton Festival

Another completely different festival is the Shoton festival in Tibet, being most known for celebrating by eating yogurt. Yogurt? Yes, you read that right, Shoton literally means yogurt banquet in Tibetan. During the festival, Tibetan artists perform traditional operas, and important monasteries display large Thangkas which are Buddha paintings. The main events during this festival are opera and exhibitions which give this festival its other two known names: “Tibetan Opera Festival” or “Thangka  Exhibition Festival”. The festival is held annually in the month of August, or late in the sixth month or early in the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar. On the first day you can see the large Thangka display in Drepung and Sera monastery, as well as Opera dance in Norbulingka park.

Tibetan New Year Festival

This festival is the most famous in the Tibetan calendar as it marks the new year and is normally celebrated for 15 days with the first three days having the main celebrations. It consists of ancient ceremonies representing the struggle between good and evil, which are characterized by chanting, and by passing fire torches through the crowds. On New Year’s Eve, people visit the monasteries and donate money to the monks. On New Year’s Day, Tibetans get up early, early and start a praying ceremony in their home where they worship the gods by placing offerings in the front of their household shrines. After that, they have a reunion dinner with traditional cake called Kapse and chang, an alcoholic beverage, and family members exchange gifts.

Water Splashing Festival of the Dai Ethnic people

This festival also celebrates the New Year for the Dai people who live in the DeShong area of Xishuangbana in the Yunnan Province in southwest China. It is called the water-splashing festival since it is characterized by splashing water onto one another as a symbol of holiness and religious purity but also goodwill among people.

The Dai people use the New Year to send off the old or past and invite the new year and future to come. It involves three days of celebrations that include light-hearted religious rituals, the main one being water-splashing. Water splashing is central to all because water, the symbol of holiness, goodness and purity, is the most precious thing to the Dai. Men and women gather in the roads or public parks to take part in a group spree of water with buckets and basins of water. When splashing another this wishes them good luck and a happy new year.

Sisters’ Meal Festival of the Miao ethnic people

The Sisters’ Meal Festival is celebrated by the Miao people especially in Taijing and Jianhe counties. This festival is regarded as the oldest Asian Valentine’s Day since it also celebrates Spring and this is a time where young singles are hopeful to meet their partner. The festival consists of a Sister’s Meal that young women have prepared with a traditional “sister’s rice” they have dyed with natural colors from wildflowers and leaves collected in the mountains. During the festival, the Miao girls dress up in their finest, beautifully elaborate silver celebration headdresses, neck chains and crowns. They then gather by the riverbanks and prepare the special “sister’s rice” which they will offer the young men soon to arrive. The men will sing to those women they are interested in marrying and the women will offer them the “Sister’s Meal” in response to their chants which consists of a drink of rice wine and the sister’s rice which is usually wrapped in a handkerchief decorated with symbols. When the young men arrive they begin to single out the women they hope to marry someday and begin to sing for them. The young women respond to their songs by giving them a drink of rice wine and the sisters’ rice wrapped in handkerchiefs with different symbols.

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Calming Chinese Calligraphy

Written by Sean Callahan 

Calligraphy has been a central part of Chinese art for thousands of years. Emperors treasured it and those who wrote the most exceptional pieces were often rewarded with high-ranking positions and riches. However, despite the external pressure calligraphers must have felt, they had to stay centred and let their emotions flow through their brush.  

Photo by Marco Zuppone on Unsplash

The sereneness contained in the brush strokes of calligraphy is not only of great value to an admirer of calligraphy but also hold great promise for serving as a form of meditative relief for the calligraphers themselves. 

Emotion in Calligraphy 

One of the most highly treasured Chinese calligraphic pieces is Yan Zhenqing’s Requiem to My Nephew. Yan Zhenqing wrote the piece upon hearing of his nephew’s death at the hands of enemy soldiers. In the throes of passion, Yan channelled his passion into ink and wrote the now-famous ode to his nephew. 

Yan’s artistic running script seems to mirror the man’s emotions. An observer can see his script starts out measured and orderly before devolving into a blur of rapid, almost fanatical, strokes. The evolution of Yan’s calligraphy within this one piece gives us insight into the depths of his bereavement. His inability to stay composed for a single sitting shows that writing calligraphy is not a process devoid of emotion; rather, it is a visible, permanent, testament to emotion.

What the Science Says 

Multiple scientific studies back up the idea that calligraphy is highly intertwined with emotion. Practitioners of calligraphy often see their heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure fall while writing: all effects also seen in the calming practice of meditation. The writing of calligraphy has also been shown to have positive effects on the concentration abilities of young children.  

While calligraphy is by no means a catch-all antidote to the stresses of life, there is little doubt of its positive effects on our bodies and minds.  

How People are Using Calligraphy to Calm 

Companies and organizations are starting to catch on to the revitalized interest in calligraphy and have begun to offer classes in which participants can learn calligraphy techniques and how to use them in a meditative setting.  

These classes are undoubtedly useful and convenient for many beginner-level calligraphers, but one need only to walk through a park in China to see that these companies are behind the curve in many respects. Calligraphy is a popular pastime of retired people in China—they take a bucket of water and a mop-like writing instrument outside and display their calligraphic talents on the sidewalk. These sidewalk artists often spend hours enjoying the motions and aesthetic of their writing. 

Maybe we should all follow their lead during this stressful time and turn to Chinese calligraphy to calm ourselves. 

About Interact China 

Shape

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”  

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well-positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste. 

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts. 

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!  
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you! 

Cutting Through the Commercialization of Culture

Written by Sean Callahan 

Tourists often spend thousands of dollars to explore China and the culture of its many ethnic groups. However, the more inexperienced travelers sometimes fall prey to the increasing commercialization of culture tourism. Nowadays, smiling ladies dressed in brightly colored costumes standing outside of stores and menus with more expensive prices for foreigners are commonplace. It is part of a trend whereby businesses and even whole towns use traditions to upsell their product and charge foreigners a premium.

What Ithe Commercialization of Culture? 

Often, people from outside a minority culture see it as an opportunity to make money instead of an opportunity to spread the traditions of the people. As a result, visitors get an experience which centers around things like souvenirs and performances that are designed to sell, not to teach. Visitors may leave a place like the Yunnan Ethnic Village with an understanding of minority culture which has been adjusted to make it more ‘touristy’. 

While there are people who benefit from this commercialization, it is usually not the minority groups which do so. They are put in the unfortunate situation of having to choose between their culture and a livelihood which could help them support their families. As a result, they participate in this realm of increasingly financially-based tourism without reaping most of the benefits it produces. 

Why Should You Care About Getting Authentic Cultural Experiences? 

One of the most captivating aspects of cultural items and experiences is their ability to provide the consumer with a window into another person’s life. Authentic culture transports people across large distances and often back in time to experience a unique way of life. When cultural items are produced for economic reasons however, it stops telling the true story of the culture. 

How Can You Get the Most Out of Culture? 

The reality of the matter is most people don’t know how to distinguish between authentic culture and commercialized culture which means they risk spending money with deceitful corporations instead of real people. One way to avoid this problem is to work with a knowledgeable company which can navigate you through the minefield of commodified culture. A company which is well versed in culture can set up meaningful experiences like a homestay with a Tibetan family or ensure the art pieces you buy are made in the same tradition they were hundreds of years ago. 

A Pool of Experts Who Care for Culture, and People too. 

Here at Interact China, we work hand-in-hand with craftspeople from ethnic minority communities to bring their traditional crafts directly to you. Many of our partners come from families with centuries of experience creating cultural artifacts and others are respected masters of their craft. When you purchase from Interact China, you not only support these artisans and their culture but also guarantee that the product you are receiving is not tainted by unnecessary commercialization. We deal in authenticity and tradition so you can be free to connect with the piece and experience its allure without worrying about extraneous concerns. 


About Interact China 

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”  

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste. 

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts. 


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!  
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you! 

4 Lessons From a Master Silversmith in Yunnan

Written by Sean Callahan

In 2017, I spent a month apprenticing under a master silversmith in a small Bai village in Yunnan, China. I expected to simply learn the techniques used to craft silver jewelry, but my master and teacher, Li Shifu, showed me that in order to truly appreciate a piece of silver, one must understand all that it represents. 

Master silversmiths such as Li Shifu believe the art of silversmithing is more of a mindset than a set of skills. Their work embodies their life philosophy which in turn means each piece has its own unique story. This is not just my story or Li Shifu’s story, but rather the story of centuries of craftsmen and craftswomen in China, a story that Interact China carries around the world.

Lesson #1: The Master can only open the door. The apprentice must learn to walk through it. 

Throughout my apprenticeship, Li Shifu emphasized the idea that he could only give me so much and my success ultimately depended on myself. He told me stories of his own apprenticeship where he and his fellow apprentice “brothers” would be made to do menial chores for months before the master would allow them to touch silver. This arduous process was not meant to take advantage of them or to punish them, but rather to select for the most important traits a silversmith can have: work ethic and dedication. Learning to be a silversmith, like most other things in life, takes hard work and repetition. Whether you want to become a silversmith or a poet, your teacher can only give you the tools to succeed. You must strive to use those tools to better yourself; only then will you truly improve. 

Lesson #2: In our rush to finish, we often lose sight of our goal. 

The first piece Li Shifu taught me how to make was a shiny silver bracelet. He instructed me to first hammer a rectangular piece of silver into a round one suitable for shaping into a bracelet. I proceeded with this task with great speed, hoping to quickly move on to the next part. After about 90 minutes, I proudly showed him my perfectly round silver rod. However, he frowned and handed it back to me saying, “it is too long.” As I spent the next few hours restarting from scratch, Li Shifu cautioned me that in my rush to shape my rod I had neglected to consider the end goal of my work. Similarly, in life, we need to consider the context which surrounds our actions and make decisions with the larger picture in mind. 

Lesson #3: Small details matter just as much as large steps. 

Undoubtedly the loudest and most noticeable step in silversmithing is the initial shaping of the item where a blowtorch and hammer are used to pound the silver into the correct shape. Silversmiths put enormous amounts of time and effort into this process as it creates the base for their product. Engraving, on the other hand, is a process which involves a chisel and tiny movements. The engraving of minuscule lines and figures may seem unimportant compared to the shaping process, but Li Shifu assured me that was not the case. A bracelet can be deemed unworthy due to one erroneous engraved dot just as it can be due to an entirely misshapen piece of silver. In our lives, we must keep in mind that seemingly trivial details can often prove to be just as meaningful as large events.

Lesson #4: Handmade goods appeal to the human spirit.  

The rise of silver factories has flooded the market with cheap mass-produced silver jewelry. Li Shifu, however, says that people still seek out handmade items like those that he makes for both practical and sentimental reasons. Not only is handmade silver stronger and more flexible, but Li Shifu believes each piece shares a connection with its maker which makes it unique. When someone opts to buy a handmade piece instead of a factory-produced one, each time they look at the piece they can admire the skill and dedication of the craftsman. One can’t put a price tag on this human element of handmade silver and that is the reason why it remains popular today. 

Oftentimes, when consumers look at the incredible pieces created by ethnic craftsmen, they recognize the beauty and allure but they miss out on the culture, philosophy, and process behind them. So next time you admire an art piece, whether it be silver jewelry or an embroidered bag, think of Li Shifu and other artisans and what their work means to them. This knowledge will allow you to appreciate and connect with handmade art more fully.  


About Interact China 

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”  

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste. 

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts. 


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!  
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!