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! 

Jiangsu: China’s Cultural Hub

By Tom Booth

History and Background

Jiangsu is a province on China’s east coast, just south of the Shandong peninsula and touching the northern part of Shanghai. Despite being one of China’s smallest provinces, it is one of its most densely populated, and has historically been one of its most prosperous. This is in part to the Grand Canal which, since the Sui and Tang dynasties, has transformed the cities of Nanjing, Suzhou and Wuxi into major social, political and economic centres. 

It is from this history of prosperity that Jiangsu has become renowned as a place rich in cultural traditions. This short blog entry will look at Jiangsu’s three greatest cultural exports: Suzhou embroidery, Yangzhou lacquerware and Yixing ceramics.

Suzhou Embroidery

Su embroidery, or suxiu 苏绣, is the term used to describe the silk embroidery produced in and around the city of Suzhou, located in the south of Jiangsu. Silk embroidery has been produced in Suzhou for over two thousand years, and is one of China’s greatest cultural heritages. Traditional subjects of Su embroidery include birds, flowers, mountains and rivers. They also often depict famous poems or stories. Although it is most commonly used to decorate clothes, it can also be used for shoes, home furnishings and even glasses cases!

There are strict rules about the production of Su embroidery. Needles and threads must be at a specific thickness in order for the embroidery to be considered authentic. Su embroidery is a broad and complex style of embroidery, but can be broadly divided into two groups: ‘even embroidery’ ping xiu 平绣, which stresses uniformity by avoiding crossing thread, and ‘random embroidery’ luan zhen xiu 乱针绣, which involves layering and crossing threads of different colours and thicknesses. Both techniques are known for using fine silk, balanced compositions and dense stitching with both thick and thin threads. 

These techniques require generations to master and the skills are passed from mother to daughter. An embroiderer has to remain seated for a long period while remaining focused throughout. A single piece can take months or even years to finish. First, the embroiderer secures a firm piece of silk over a wooden stretcher. The design is then sketched onto the fabric by drawing simple outlines. These are then filled in: the more intricate areas use thinner thread.

Yangzhou Lacquerware

Lacquerware is one of the intangible cultural heritages of the city of Yangzhou, located next to the capital city of Nanjing in central Jiangsu. Lacquerware was first produced in Yangzhou around three thousand years ago, but it was really during the Ming and Qing periods that it flourished as a national and international cultural heritage. Lacquerware has a variety of uses, but is generally utilised for hanging screens, cabinets, tables and chairs, bottles and plates, bowls and boxes. 

Within Yangzhou lacquer production, one of the most famous techniques is called duobao lacquerware. Duobao lacquerware was developed by the famous artisan Zhou He in the Ming dynasty. It uses precious metals such as agate, jade and silver to inlay the lacquerware, creating an opulent and magnificent finished product. 

The process of making lacquerware is expensive and time consuming. The piece must first be designed. Then it has to be painstakingly carved and polished before being inlaid with rare metals and jewels. A master craftsperson will spend upwards of twelve months to produce just one piece. 

Yixing Ceramics

Ceramics have been produced in the city of Yixing, located near the Great Lake of Taihu, since the Neolithic period. The area is surrounded by rich clay deposits, helping it gain the title of China’s ‘pottery capital.’ Yixing produces all types of pottery: dragon jars, vessels, roof tiles, but most importantly teapots. High quality teapots have been made in Yixing since the 16th century, and there have been a steady stream of brilliant artists in Yixing ever since.

One distinguishing feature of Yixing pottery is that it is all hand-made rather than thrown on a wheel. The most important clay in the production of Yixing ceramics is ‘purple sand’ or zisha 紫砂. By mixing the clays and adding particular minerals, Yixing artists have learned to create ceramics with a wide variety of colours and earthy tones.

Clay is first pounded with a heavy mallet. The bodies of the teapots are made either by press-moulding, paddling or slabbing. This is done with specialised tools made from bamboo that have been refined and remade throughout the centuries. 

There are three main styles of Yixing teapot: the first style is geometric, while the other three are more naturalistic in form. 

Conclusion

There is much more to say about each of these cultural crafts, but hopefully this short blog post has provided some food for thought, and has helped highlight the cultural importance of the province of Jiangsu.


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! 

A Journey Through Chinese Ethnic Minorities’ Festivals

By Emma Marler

The beauty of Chinese ethnic minorities is the variety of their culture. Each of the 56 Chinese ethnic minorities have their own unique traditions and customs. As a visitor, one of the best ways to experience each group’s culture is attending one of their festivals, there are so many of them! Let’s have a look at a few so you can get an idea of how colourful and fun these celebrations are!

Water Splashing Festival

The Dai ethnic people reside in Xishuangbanna, an autonomous province located in Yunnan. According to their own calendar, they celebrate New Year in mid-April for three days. Because the weather is already very warm at that time of year, it is tradition to accompany religious rituals with light-hearted and fun activities.

The first two days of celebration are on the Lancang river. People enjoy watching boat race competitions during the day and make floating lanterns fly in the evening, an old Chinese tradition that sends bad luck away.

On the third day, water splashing actually happens! The Dai put on their best clothes and listen to monks chanting Buddhist scriptures at their local temple. Afterward, the most important ritual of the festival takes place, ‘Bathing the Buddha’, since in Dai culture water symbolises religious purification. After the statue has been soaked with water, everyone else starts splashing each other.             

Splashing each other with water is not just good fun, but it is also a way to send good luck and prosperity for the next year.

Sisters’ Meal Festival

The Sisters’ Meal Festival is celebrated by the Miao Hmong ethnic minority in Guizhou province, China. This festival takes place in March and lasts for 3 days. It is considered the oldest Valentine’s day in China. It originated from an old matchmaking legend, according to which a god advised  girls to dye rice and offer it to young men in order to find their marriage partners. Girls wear their best embroidered dresses and silver ornaments for the occasion, since the light of the polished material wards off evil spirits.

To this day women still go to the mountains to collect wild flowers in order to dye rice. They wrap the  glutinous rice in handkerchiefs or baskets.

When a man approaches them, the girls choose which packet of rice to gift in order to communicate their interest or lack of. If there is a pair of chopsticks or red petal with the rice, it means that the girl wants to marry him. If there is pepper or garlic, it means that the girl is not interested.

Torch Festival

The Torch festival is of prime importance for the Yi people. The origin of this festival is not clear. Some scholars believe it was one of the two annual New Year celebrations according to their ten month calendar. Another school of thought traces its origin back to the ancient worship of the Yi towards fire because of its power to repel insects and protect crops.

During the three days of celebrations, if you walk around a Yi village you will see that in front of every house there is a lit up torch, illuminating the streets and creating a magical atmosphere. Young men and women also walk around the fields and place the torches at the four corners of the crops. In the main square a huge bonfire is lit and everyone contributes to igniting it.

Many other activities are also carried out in the daytime. Girls parade in their traditional outfits and yellow umbrellas, whereas men engage in competitions of horse racing, bullfighting, and wrestling.

All these beautiful festivals strengthen the cultural traits of the ethnic minorities and maintains their centenary traditions alive. They are the perfect chance to showcase their identity to the rest of the world!


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!

How is China increasing its focus on sustainable fashion?

Written by Julia Ruston

Who has not heard about the concept of sustainable fashion yet? It is certainly a buzz word in the fashion industry, becoming more and more important as people question their choice of clothing and where it is sourced. In particular, sustainable fashion is rapidly gaining attention and influence in the Chinese fashion industry as more people, especially the younger generations, are contributing to addressing the concerns and downsides of fast fashion and want to provide a sustainable alternative.

Why is China making these changes?

Whilst a rapid economic development has been very positive for Chinese people to advance in the direction of a more harmonious and wealthy society it has also brought some safety, health and environmental issues. Since the relocation of most Western fashion giant’s production lines to China, Chinese people have been the ones to personally suffer the health, safety and environmental disasters in the textile industry. The ultimate goal to balance the economy, environment and society is one that the Chinese have realised needs a heavier focus on sustainability. This is why the Chinese government has taken action in the past years, committing to the Paris Agreement, proposing a range of carbon, energy and pollution targets in its 12th five-year plan and launching the new Made in China 2025 strategy which focuses on pursuing green development and upgrading China to be a manufacturer of quality over quantity.

The recipe for sustainability

So, if sustainable fashion is an important part of being more environmentally and socially conscious, what exactly does it englobe? Well, many people are not aware of the extensive area sustainability applies to. Here are the three overarching themes that strive for sustainability and directly apply to eco-fashion:

  1. Being respectful towards the environment, the producers, the end product’s lifecycle and the consumer.
  2. Contributing to the preservation of the cultural heritage and tradition of the product.
  3. Optimising resources by making quality, lasting products with the most natural methods and materials possible

“Made in China” reformed

China has a great opportunity to develop many sustainable fashion brands as it has an efficient and well-developed infrastructure and a skilled workforce. Fortunately, more and more Chinese fashion brands are investing in making sustainable fashion especially Gen Z designers. With the new Made in China 2025 strategy and many Chinese designers taking an interest in becoming more sustainable, it has been a growing force in Shanghai’s Fashion Week (SFW) for the past few years with many emblematic fashion designers having a go at sustainable fashion. For example, Ffixxed Studios was featured in a past edition of SFW for their focus on reducing wastage from manufacturing, using recycled materials and using natural fibres. This label’s commitment to being more sustainable has been acknowledged by winning the Yoox.com Asian Sustainable Fashion award in 2015.

Other Chinese designers that are focusing on this emerging sustainable “Made in China” label are Vega Zaishi Wang who is combining ancient craftsmanship with a modern touch in her clothing line and Angel Chang who is actively involved with local communities, in order to promote and help keep Chinese traditional designs and textiles alive.

In Interact China, we are doing our best to contribute to these sustainable goals and strongly strive to achieve the recipe for sustainability. We help promote the cultural heritage and tradition of our products which are handmade with sustainable materials. Moreover, we respect our producers who are ethnic minorities by providing fair pay and helping to keep their traditional and aboriginal designs and materials alive.


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!

A Day in the Life of Miao People

By Emma Marler

Miao people are one the 56 ethnic groups in China. Their vibrant culture attracts visitors from all over the world. They are well renowned for their silver crafting and embroidery skills. Let’s now try to imagine to spend a day in the life of the Miao community. It’s going to be an exciting journey!

The majority of Miao people lives in Guizhou province in Southern China. There is an old saying that describes their homeland this way: “No three days are clear, no three feet of land are level, and no one has three ounces of silver”. Guizhou is therefore known for its mountainous sceneries, long rainy seasons and for not being very prosperous economically.

Their houses are built on steep hillsides and use stilts for support. Their tradition to plant bamboo and trees around their homes makes the wooden buildings blend in beautifully with the natural surroundings. But it’s at night that magic happens. When it gets dark and each family turns the lights on, the mountains seem to be lit up.

The cultivation of rice has been their main means of subsistence, especially before tourism started to spring up. As many Chinese liquors, Miao’s mijiu (米酒) is also rice-based. Hospitality is a big part of their culture. Guest are welcomed with this rice wine to toast while dancing and singing takes place to greet visitors. Miao are great cooks and they love sour and spicy food. There is even an ancient saying that states that “without eating a sour dish for three days, people will stagger with weak legs”! Fish soup is Miao’s staple dish. Fresh carps from the rice fields are cooked in a boiling soup with chili pepper, garlic and tomatoes.

If you go and visit, you might be lucky enough to participate in one of their Long Table banquets! During special occasions like New Year or weddings, every household brings a home cooked dish and shares it with the rest of the extended family and their guests.

Apart from agriculture, Miao people have cultivated several artistic skills along the years. Men are exceptional at silver work. At festivals or special occasions girl accessorize their dresses with head to toe silver jewelry, it can weigh up to 10 kilograms! Silver is believed to symbolize light and it can scare away evil spirits. Silver is therefore a recurring element in the most important milestones of their life. When a new born baby takes his first bath, parents put a piece of silver into the water to wish for a happy future. Families start collecting silver jewelry for their daughter’s wedding since the day they are born.

The traditional costume is a perfect representation of Miao culture and history because it combines both silver work and embroidery. Women are extremely talented artists and produce the most stunning embroidery pieces. The techniques they use are very elaborate and to finish a set of traditional clothes can take up to two years. To recognize a Miao embroidery pattern you have to look out for natural and geometric shapes in beautiful bold colours.

Their embroidery techniques are passed on for generations and girls start learning how to weave, embroider and cross-stitch at the age of 6. When a girl finishes her first embroidered dress all on her own it shows that she is ready to get married.

Miao people have also mastered the art of batik. According to a Miao traditional song, a young girl dreamt of some bees landing on her blue skirt one night and when she woke up she found some wax on it. After washing it a few times she realised that those spots were flowered shaped and had adorned her simple skirt.

Batik and embroidery are an essential way for Miao people to express themselves because they don’t have their own written language. Those patterns are a visual language to transmit their culture, religion and history to the rest of the world.

With the passing of time and the rise of globalisation, rich culture and traditions like those of the Miao are even more unique but are also at risk of dying out. Our mission is to preserve their heritage and pet people know how much these ethnic minorities have to offer. We hope you enjoyed this journey into the wonders of the Miao world!


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!

Everything you need to know about Mei Tai

By Tom Booth

Mei tai 背带, also known as meh daibei dai or simply a baby sling are wonderful baby carriers that continue to be popular around the world. Even though they are amongst the oldest style of carriers, the combination of flexibility, convenience and simplicity means mothers often choose them instead of modern buckled carriers or prams. 

What is a mei tai?

mei tai is a broad name for an Asian style baby carrier that originated in China many thousands of years ago. It consists of a main fabric panel with long straps. These straps wrap around the parent’s body, and are twisted and tied into position. Although best known by the Cantonese pronunciation of mei tai, this style of carrier is found in a range of different countries and cultures. For example, in Japan traditional baby carrying was done using a wrap carry called an obi 帯, and in Korea a similar baby sling is called a podaegi 포대기. All of these consist of fabric panels with long straps that are wrapped around the parent. 

These mei tai can be made of a wide variety of materials, such as reeds and grasses that are woven into a fabric. These are not simply tools but are often cultural heirlooms and pieces of artwork by their own merit. They are often decorated with bright colours, images and beads.

What is so good about mei tai?  

One of the major appeals of the traditional mei tai is the degree to which it can be altered to suit a baby regardless of size or age. The baby is able to sit on the main fabric panel while the straps are adjusted to be both secure and comfortable. Not only is the baby secure and comfortable, but the mei tai can be used time and time again, from infancy right up until the baby is able to walk on its own.

By contrast, buckled baby carriers have a fixed, rigid structure because of the plastic buckles. Also, the length of the straps is also fixed, limiting the baby age range the carrier can be used. 

Some parents prefer mei tai with thicker back straps to provide greater support and security for their child. These can be tied around the parent’s back to provide greater comfort and ease-of-use. Cheaper, buckled brands often do not offer such an option, and thus can cause some irritation for both the baby and the parent if used for a long period of time. 

Types of mei tai

As mentioned earlier, there are many regional variations of the mei tai. But within these, there are four main types of mei tai that each offer different benefits: 

  • Half buckles: combine the best of mei tai and buckled baby carriers. The half buckle has a buckle around the waist of the parent, but keeps the flexible straps around the shoulders. 
  • Onbuhimo: Japanese-derived baby slings where the baby is attached to the parent’s back rather than the front. The baby sits higher on the parent, and so there is no need for a waist band. 
  • Korean podaegis: two straps are attached to the top of a longer panel than is wrapped around the baby. The straps are tied under the parent’s arms. This also doesn’t have a waist band. 
  • South Korean Chunei: more like a jacket that has a pouch for the baby to sit in. Think of a kangaroo! 

How to put them on 

Maybe one of the most off putting things about mei tai is the apparent difficulty of putting them on. But in reality, once you know how, it is quite simple. First, tie the mei tai around yourself, letting the panel fall down like an apron. Pick up your baby and place it chest-to-chest, making sure its legs are pushed outwards around your body. Keeping one hand under the baby, you then pull up the straps and throw them over each shoulder. With your free hand, you then reach behind and pull the straps together, pulling the baby tight towards your chest. Cross each strap over your back. Do this on both sides and then pull and secure in a knot.  

Hopefully this short introduction to mei tai might encourage new parents to look into getting a mei tai to carry their new born baby! 


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. 

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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! 

Wu Guanzhong: a Fusion of Western and Oriental Painting

By Emma Marler

Wu Guanzhong is one of the most well renowned contemporary Chinese artists in the world. His paintings are now sold by prestigious auction houses such as Christie’s for hundreds of thousands of dollars. What makes him so special compared to other talented artists of his time is his use of colour, deeply influenced by European modernism. His works combine traditional Chinese ink techniques with Western oil painting. He liked to describe himself as ‘a snake swallowing an elephant,’ — the snake symbolising the Chinese artist in him, the elephant representing Western influence.

Wu Guanzhong photographed by Chua Soo Bin in 1988

Wu Guanzhong’s life was in many ways fascinating. He was  born in 1919 in Jiangsu province in a modest but educated family. His father was a school teacher and hoped that Wu would follow his steps. But fate had something else planned for him.  He dropped out of his engineering course at university to attend the National Hangzhou Academy of Art. He studied under the guidance of important artists such as Lin Fengmian, often considered the father of Chinese modern painting.

Lin Fengmian, Willow Scenery, ink and colour on paper, 1960s

The years that defined the most his later career and success were those spent in Paris. He studied for 3 years at one of the most prestigious academies in France. He greatly admired Post-Impressionists such as Van Gogh, Pissarro and Cézanne. His study abroad trip also made him appreciate formalism, an style of expression that favours the purely visual aspects of an artwork rather than its narrative or accuracy to the real world. Wu would later apply this principle to his art and push the boundaries of form and colour.

The Hua mountains at sunset, ink and colour on paper, 1997

When he came back from France, he taught at several Beijing universities and academies until his life changed drastically in 1966. Because of the Cultural Revolution, his wife and him were sent to the countryside to work in the fields. He could not paint during this time and had to destroy most of the oil paintings he had done after his trip to Europe.

But when ten years later Wu went back to painting, he did not immediately start using oil colours again, instead he used ink wash painting. Wu was ready to revolutionize this ancient technique. As he put it “brush-and-ink is misunderstood as being the only choice for life and the future path of Chinese painting, and the standards of brush-and-ink painting are used to judge whether any work is good or bad.” He mixes black ink with colours.

Guo Xi, Early Spring, ink on paper, 1072

He takes inspiration from famous traditional painters like Guo Xi. Let’s take a look at the following artwork. Even though Wu depicts a mountainous setting and a waterfall like in “Early Spring”, the results are completely different. Wu dilutes ink to make it grey and uses black just for some details, and leaves plenty of space to play with colour. With just a few visible brush strokes he skilfully paints the scene, just like Impressionists.

Plunge waterfall at Tiantai mountain, inkn and colour on paper

In later work, his Western studies and oil-painting background show through even more. He distances himself from traditional Chinese painting in two ways. Firstly, his subjects become more and more abstract. His portrayal of the Lion Grove Garden in Hangzhou has been compared to Pollock’s work, his use of colour and form can be assimilated to Abstract Expressionism. Unlike Chinese painting, colours here are used in a non-referential way, i.e. they do not reflect reality. The splotches of colour in this and other paintings are an example of this.

Lion Woods, ink and colour on paper, 1983
Jackson Pollock, Number 1, oil on canvas, 1949

The second way he differs from traditional Chinese painters is the choice of the subjects of his painting. Inspired by the geometrical lines of Mondrian, architecture becomes central in his works. To a Western eye this probably does not seem like such an experimental move. However, in traditional compositions elements of architecture were always just small details in a vast natural landscape.

Twin Swallows, ink and colour on paper, 1981

The minimalism and attention to perspective of “Twin Swallows” were ground-breaking at the time. The only detail that provides an idea of the scale are the two birds flying over the houses.

Zhouzhuang, oil on canvas, 1997

His style of painting is in continuous evolution. When it comes to architecture, he loves experimenting. He can be a realist and paint Zhouzhuang village exactly as it is or he can immerse himself into abstraction, like in “Chinatown”.

Chinatown, ink and colour on paper, 1993

As the tenth year of Wu Guanzhong’s death approaches in June, it is important to celebrate one of the greatest painters of our time. He did not only push the boundaries of Chinese traditional painting, but also had a significant impact on the way the Western art world viewed Chinese painting.


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!

Du Fu: The Life and Times of China’s Greatest Poet

By Tom Booth

Du Fu is one of China’s most beloved and respected poets. But who was he, and why is he known as one of China’s greatest poets? This short blog post intends to explore the life and times of this enigmatic figure, and to cast light on why he is revered and celebrated in China and across the world today.

Du Fu was born in 712 into a scholar family. As a youth he was already an accomplished poet, producing and performing his work in his home province of Henan. When he came of age, it was expected that he would excel in the imperial examinations in Chang’an (modern day Xi’an) and occupy an important position within the government. However, to his shock, he failed the examinations and left the city empty handed.

In the prime of life I was sent by my home prefecture to sit the state examinations. I feared no rival among the competing scholars, nor any difficult questions that might be put to me. I thought, of course, that I was extraordinary, and should immediately climb to the top and restore the purity of culture of civilisation. But unfortunately, the board of examinations thought otherwise. They failed me. All my hopes were shattered – Verses to Minister Wei.

Dejected by his failure, Du Fu travelled alone throughout the country. He eventually encountered Li Bai, another legendary Chinese poet who was slightly older than Du Fu. His senior, freewheeling contemporary had a huge impact on Du Fu’s poetry, and Du Fu would continue to write about Du Fu for the rest of his life.

Separation by death, in the end you get over. Separation in life is a continuous grief. No word from you, old friend, but you have been in my dreams, as if you know how much I miss you. I feel as though you are no longer mortal, the distance between us is so great. The waters are deep; the waves are wide; do not let the river gods take you – Dreaming of Li Bai.

After travelling with Li Bai, Du Fu once again petitioned the government for an official position, and was appointed registrar in the crown prince’s palace. However, in 755 disaster struck the Tang dynasty: the rebel An Lushan declared himself emperor of a new, northern Yan dynasty, throwing the country into chaos. Du Fu’s stable life as a court official was turned upside down, and he was forced to flee the approaching famine, political unrest and violence that was to follow.

I remember when we first fled the rebels, hurrying north over dangerous trails, the whole family trudging endlessly, begging without shame from the people we met. We walked for ten days, holding hands, half in rain and thunder. Through the mud we pulled each other, on. Searching the horizon for a wisp of smoke that might indicate shelter – Ballad of the Pengya Road.

Du Fu was once again forced into an itinerant lifestyle, before finding a position in the court of a local warlord who had carved out power for himself in the chaos of the An Lushan rebellion. This was probably the period where Du Fu was most content with life: he had land, money and a degree of security from the turbulent outside world. However, this was short lived, as he was once again forced to move with his family in 768. He died, seemingly peacefully, while travelling by boat southward along the Xiang River.

On my journey I am sick. Time closes in on me. This watery land engulfs the simple cottages in a mist. Maple shores layer green summits. Excitement gone, now nothing troubles me. My raggedy clothes have been patched, every inch. I have got to know the customs of all the nine regions of China, and still the blood of battle flows, as it has for so long. The sounds of armies stir to this day. I have achieved nothing, and my tears fall like rain – Writing my feelings.

Du Fu is probably best thought of as both a poet and a historian. He lived during an extremely turbulent period of China’s history, and his poetry provides a social commentary on events as they unfolded. He also travelled extensively, and was able to paint a picture of China that was deeper and more comprehensive than any that preceded it.

So why is Du Fu regarded as China’s greatest poet? His poetry is renowned for its range of moods; according to one of his translators, David Hinton, “[Du Fu] explored the full range of experience, and from this abundance shaped the monumental proportions of being merely human.” Harvard’s Stephen Owen declares: “there is Dante, there’s Shakespeare, and there’s Du Fu: these poets create the very standard by which great poetry is judged.” But perhaps his greatest ability is to connect with people from all walks of life, both during his own time and for the years to come.


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! 

Cai Guo-Qiang: The Gunpowder Artist

By Tom Booth

When you hear the word ‘gunpowder’ what images immediately spring to mind? Perhaps you think of old-fashioned cannons and shot loaded on pirate ships. Or perhaps you think of firework displays such as those at New Year parties around the world. Or maybe you think of the novelty gunpowder snaps that make a satisfying CRACK! when thrown against the floor.

Ceremonial firing of cannons in Malta.

You probably haven’t considered the possibility of gunpowder as fine art to be displayed in museums and art galleries. But that is exactly the way Cai Guo-Qiang produces his works, which are displayed around the world in the most prestigious art galleries and museums.

A display of Cai’s gunpowder artistry at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, US.

First, a little background about gunpowder in China. The first reference to gunpowder was in the 9th century AD in the Tang dynasty (618-907) and it was first used in warfare in the early 10th century. Some say that gunpowder was originally developed in an attempt to create an alchemical mixture to provide eternal life. This myth is reflected in the Chinese word for gunpowder, huo yao 火药, which means ‘fire medicine.’ By the 11th and 12th centuries gunpowder had become a staple part of warfare in China. It was also around this time that it began to be used for less violent purposes such as fireworks and entertainment.

Chinese cannon on Juyongguan Pass.

The artist Cai Guo-Qiang also has an interesting background. He started his artistic career following in the footsteps of his father, a renowned calligrapher, and thus adopted a style that was close to traditional Chinese calligraphic and ink-wash art. However, he felt the form limited his creative energy, and thus drew inspiration from Western oil painting on canvas, before eventually incorporating gunpowder into his works.

Cai shown here in his studio, assessing a recently produced piece of art.

The paradox of gunpowder as both a constructive and a destructive force is integral to Cai’s vision for his gunpowder artwork. He saw gunpowder as a way to reduce his own control over the canvas, thus creating artistic impressions that were intimately connected to nature and the natural form.

Gunpowder and explosions in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.

Cai creates paintings and drawings out of gunpowder by orchestrating carefully controlled explosions onto canvas. A small amount of gunpowder is added onto the canvas, along with a variety of metals, and then a protective sheet is layered over the top. The gunpowder is then detonated: the finished result is only seen once the protective layer has been removed. This video demonstrates how Cai is able to create large and expressive pieces of art using this technique.

The production of the artwork is in itself a performing art. The drama and excitement generated by the detonation of the gunpowder draws huge crowds. Cai has increasingly done larger and more daring projects using his patented gunpowder art. Perhaps most famous is his sky ladder, which uses gunpowder to create a ladder that stretches hundreds of meters into the sky. Check this video for an idea!

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Cai’s artwork is not only his ability to re-define what is considered ‘art’ but also what is considered ‘gunpowder.’ His art proves that gunpowder is not only a force for destruction such as in war and conflict but can also be used in a constructive and reconstructive manner. It all depends on what purpose it is used for, and who is using it. In the hands of a great artist like Cai, the result is undeniably creative and astonishingly beautiful.


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. 

Shape

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!