Peonies & Co.: The Enchanting Power of the Chinese Flower

Written by Maria Giglio

Attention boyfriends of the world, I’m about to tell you the secret to a woman’s heart: if you love her, bring her flowers. That’s right, that’s it. Every woman in the world has a thing with flowers… unless she’s allergic, of course. In any case, no doubt she will fall in your arms. But why? Well, for starters it’s the simplest gesture to show appreciation to your other half. Plus, because there is a mystic, millennial symbolic connection between flowers and women.

Many cultures worship flowers as a universal image of feminine grace, beauty and prosperity. For example, in Christian tradition the Virgin Mary is often associated with the lily, symbol of purity or referred to as “Mystical Rose” without thorn to represent her sinless nature. In Buddhist culture, the lotus is worshipped as a symbol of perfection and fertility; resembling the woman’s uterus with its rounded shape, this flower is known for its incredible beauty and the capacity to stay clean despite flourishing in swamps and wet habitats. The energising power of flowers and spring are immortalised in Botticelli’s eternal masterpiece La Primavera.

In Botticelli’s La Primavera, Flora (3rd figure on the right) personifies the rebirth of Spring wearing a floral dress

Naturally, this charming love story between flowers and women reaches one of its highest peeks in Chinese culture, where it has been widely celebrated over millennia by a prosperous artistic tradition.

Chinese blossoms

Since ancient times, the Chinese have cultivated a true passion for flowers, by decorating their public and private spaces with beautiful gardens. Interestingly, the Chinese word for flower is “花” (huā) and visually represents the magic of a flower in bloom. In fact, the character is a compound, growing from the radical for grass “艹” under which the magic joyful metamorphosis of a plant when producing flowers is represented by a cheerful character.

On the twelfth day of the second month of each lunar year, as soon as nature awakens, a Spring Festival is held in honour of百花深 (Bǎihuā shēn), the White Goddess of Flowers, to celebrate fertility. As in other cultures, Chinese people too associate flowers with women and beauty very frequently, although the symbology related to flowers is much richer and varied, as evidenced by traditional and tribal art and poetry production.

Pink peonies

King of Flowers

Among the many flowers linked to Chinese culture, peony is certainly the most treasured by Chinese people. The equivalent of the Westerners’ beloved rose, the peony is also known as the king of flowers (花王, Huāwáng), existing in two main varieties, the tree and herbaceous peony. The original Chinese word for the herbaceous peony was 芍药 (sháo yào) to refer to the medical properties of the flower. Shao (芍) means in fact a spoonful (勺) of plant (艹), whereas yao (药) means medicine. After a while, both the tree and herbaceous varieties were known as 牡丹 (mudan). This word consists of two characters. The character 牡 (mu) is composed of the radicals for ox (牛) and and earth (土). The character 丹 (dan) means either pill, probably referring to the healing properties ascribed to the peony in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or the typical colour red, as a typical variety of the flower.

An ancient passion

Up until the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912 A.D.), the peony was renowned as the official national flower of China, as per appointment by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1903. As a matter of fact, Chinese passion for this flower sprang around 1,400 years ago. During the Tang Dynasty (around 600 A.D.) peonies started to be employed to decorate the imperial gardens and soon began to spread everywhere else in China. An imperial emblem of opulence and beauty, peonies were featured in paintings and textiles, as well as used in poetical allegories to celebrate the prosperity of the nation. Among the most valuable, the red ones represent wealth, while white peonies symbolize the beauty and cheerfulness of Chinese young girl.

Cultivating national pride

After the Cultural Revolution, the Peony is not recognised the official status of national flower anymore, though its fame and glorious reputation is unvaried in the heart of the Chinese people as it embodies the national hope for an ever-growing prosperity. Over the last twenty years people already expressed their willing twice by casting a ballot (one in 1994 and one 2003) for a renovated official acknowledgment by the Government of the peony as a national emblem. The proposal is still pending.

Although Chinese peonies can be found almost everywhere in the country, Luoyang (Henan Province, Eastern China) is certainly the best place to admire their beautiful blossoms. Renowned as the city of peonies, Luoyang offers a spectacular Peony garden showcasing over 500 varieties in full bloom. The garden is famous for hosting a peony high over 3 metres and as old as 1,600 years.

A view of Luoyang Peony Garden

Flowers in Chinese traditional fashion: take your pick!

The passion for flowers is vividly featured in the traditional apparel of Chinese people.

Back in the 60s Scott McKenzie used to sing “if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair”. If you insteadwant to wear flowers everywhere, check out our exclusive florid collection of handmade Qipaos!

Amongst the 56 minorities in China, Miao people hold pomegranate blossoms 石榴花 (Shíliú huā) particularly at heart. A national cultural heritage as enlisted by UNESCO, Miao embroidery features pomegranate flowers to symbolise the wish for prosperity. If you want a taste of this true textile rarity, check out these handmade bags that our Miao artisan partners have created exclusively for our costumers!

If you smell a nice deal… Discover these and more products on InteractChina.com!


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. 

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! 

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Ikat, the ancient art of cloud weaving

Written by Maria

Feeling blue today? If you know what Ikat is, you may agree that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Coming from the Malay-Indonesian word mengikat (to tie), Ikat is an ancient textile art particularly diffused in Southeast Asia, particularly in China, Indonesia and Thailand.

The technique is complex and time-consuming, mainly consisting in dyeing the cotton yarns before weaving.

Named after such technique, the Ikat fabric can come in a variety of colours and patterns, although one of the most popular variations is the blue-patterned one. Ikat weavers use pigments of indigo, the local plant which famously gives the characteristic colour to denim, to obtain the particularly dense, sky-like blue. This is probably why in Persia Ikat technique is known as abr brandi, which literally means tying the clouds.

Origins

Although its origins are highly debated, Ikat is probably one of the most ancient and unique textile techniques of Asia. The earliest historical record was found in China and dates back to the 6th Century, though there is track that the technique has been used in India at least since the 7th century and developed in other Asian Countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

Surprisingly, Ikat has also widely flourished in Latin American countries such as Peru and Guatemala since ancient times, where it developed independently of the Eastern world.

Ikat was brought to Europe by Dutch and Spanish explorers from Asia and Latin America during Colonialism, started in the 7th Century.

The traditional patterns of Ikat used to be entrenched of spiritual meaning. In particular, Ikat used to be a symbol of wealth. Until recent times, in Southeast Asia only aristocrats were allowed to wear Ikat fabric. The rule, also sanctioned with death punishment, slowly disappeared because of the colonialist pressures to trade and diffuse the product abroad, which led to its largest diffusion in the 20th Century.

Process

Just like batik and tie-dye, Ikat is obtained with a resist-dyeing method, mainly by controlling the colour spread so that it does not reach all the fabric. The purpose is to create the patterns out of the contrast between coloured and uncoloured areas.

The difference between Ikat and other famous resist-dyeing techniques like Batik or Tie-dye, is that dyeing is applied before and not after weaving. First, the design is marked onto the yarns. Then, the unmarked areas are then tied with rubber, wax or other materials, to avoid that the colour penetrates them.

The yarns are then dyed with the use of a straw. Finally, the yarns are untied and woven in the loom. Dyeing is fundamental to the creation of the patterns. A variation of Ikat is double Ikat, where both the warp and the weft are dyed.

If you want to know more about Ikat, watch the following video to see how ikat is made! https://youtu.be/3OAnnvPEOl8

If you have fallen in love with Ikat, please have a look on our new sleek line of blue scarves on InteractChina.com. Enjoy!

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!

Lacquered Handicrafts and their Maintenance

Written by Juliette Qi

 

It is in China that we found the first uses of lacquer, nearly 1000 years BC and today it is one of the most representative materials of Asia. Lacquer is a resin extracted from a tree called the lacquer tree (there are several varieties). Several layers are applied, sometimes tens of layers, on the surface of the wares(funds means surface ) generally prepared. Its beauty comes from its smooth and pleasant feel and the look of depth created by its slight translucency.

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Lacquer is harvested from the sap of the lacquer tree: an incision is made on the bark at the base of the tree, a container is placed underneath it and is filled with sap. The sap is very sticky and shiny. The process is long and inefficient. The lacquer process from start to finish is an essential component of Asian culture. The realization of a lacquered object requires a lot of time and patience, it follows extremely meticulous and careful steps.

console-chinoise-un-tiroir-laque-noire To learn more about the history of this craft and its artisans, I recommend you watch this documentary “THE GREAT SHOKUNIN”:

 

Pearl lacquer Chinese furniture

The characters and decorations in nacre (mother-of-pearl) are composed of several elements that must be arranged and assembled according to the characteristics of the material piece of furniture itself (I mean in order as in in the right pattern), such as a Chinese curved entry piece. The sense of detail is very important for the decoration of mother-of-pearl elements. Mainly women are chosen for this job which requires a lot of attention to detail. Here, a Chinese piece of furniture that is covered with mother-of-pearl.

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The different colors and pigments are arranged to color the nacre. When we look at the equipment used in the fabrication, we’ll find it is far from an industrial process, rather the highest quality of local craftsmanship in the most noble sense of the word. For example, the lacquered jewelry boxes concentrate a lot of techniques onto a small surface.

 

Maintain Your Lacquered Objects

To use and keep your lacquered objects for a long time, we have put together the following set of special tips for you:

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  • Never place the object near a heat source or in a place that is too cold
  • Maintain it with a non-aggressive foam cleaner (like a foam cleaner? Yes, and can you replace the Franch Brand with some American Brand if that make more sense?) such as O’Cedar or Pliz (available in supermarkets)
  • Wipe only with a soft cloth slightly dampened with fresh water
  • Keep the object away from sharp objects or cutting objects
  • Lacquered vases cannot hold water
  • Food contact with your trays or plates should be avoided
  • Never put the object in the microwave, or even use it to hold hot dishes

 

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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!

Children’s shoes with Tiger’s Heads

Written by Juliette Qi

 

Tiger-headed shoes are an example of traditional Chinese folk crafts. These children’s shoes, made from a variety of soft fabrics, feature a tiger at the front of the shoe and embroidered soles. Their name comes from the from the front part of the shoe that looks like the head of a tiger. In northern China, people also refer to them as “cat-headed shoes”. Wearing these brightly colored cloth shoes which all have such special designs is a traditional custom for young Chinese people and symbolizes good fortune.

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In Chinese culture, tigers are considered auspicious, so women embroider the vamp of the shoe in the shape of a tiger, hoping that their children will become as strong and vibrant as this animal. In addition, the bright image of the tiger’s head has been thought to chase away evil spirits and to protect children from diseases or disasters in their lives. It is a complicated job to make tiger-headed shoes and it requires a lot of delicate work like embroidery and weaving, especially on the very front of the shoe. The main part of the shoe is largely red and yellow and the craftsmen generally use thick lines to draw the outline of the mouth, the eyebrows, the nose and the eyes of the tiger to express its power in an exaggerated way.

 

Tancheng County, Linyi, Shandong Province (East China),2017. Zhao Kaiying, 85, has been making tiger-headed shoes for more than 20 years.

 

These shoes, offered to the child from an early age, present a tiger head in the front of the vamp. As a guardian animal and devourer of demons, the tiger protects the child against evil spirits. Other symbols are also embroidered under the shoes.

The origins of the tiger-headed shoe have no historical records, but there are several popular legends about them. The following is one of the legends that would explain the origin of these shoes: a long time ago, there was a lady with skillful hands and good artistic taste. She was very good at embroidery, so that her child was always well dressed. One night a monster came to the village and took all the children except his son. From then on, people began to realize that the child’s shoes were decorated with a tiger’s head at their ends to scare the monster, leaving the child safe. As a result, people started to imitate this practice.

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In the eyes of the general public, the tiger is a robust and powerful animal with the title of “king of animals”. So when this animal is mentioned, it evokes in people the idea of ​​power and fear. As a result, some expressions about tiger, such as the roar of the tiger, the scary aspect of the tiger (Chinese: 虎威, pinyin: Huwei) or vigorous as a tiger (Chinese: 虎虎有生气, pinyin: huhuyoushengqi) were invented along with this culture.

 

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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!

Landscape All-around: The Four Famous Embroideries

Written by Juliette Qi

 

As a traditional handicraft art, Chinese embroidery has an important place in the history of Chinese art and the textile industry. Throughout its history and even today, it is still improving technically and is renewed for the new aesthetic designs . It is practiced throughout China and has different characteristics depending on the region, among which we invite you to discover the four best known modern schools.

 

Su Embroidery

Su

 

Suzhou embroidery, which dates back 4000 years, is considered one of the four main schools of this Chinese handicraft, along with those in Hunan, Guangdong and Sichuan. All of the works are handmade on a silk material such as taffeta, satin and raw silk.

Su 2

 

The Suzhou School is renowned for the finesse of its products. To obtain the desired artistic effect, a silk thread is subdivided into 2, 4, 6, 8 or even 48 strands, each as thin as a single silk fiber.

Su 3
Girls who practice Su embroider

Suzhou embroidery now has 40 styles instead of the traditional 18, while silk threads have six thousand subtle nuances. Consequently, almost all drawings such as traditional Chinese paintings, oil paintings, gouaches, color photos or calligraphy, can be reproduced using Suzhou embroidery.

 

Yue Embroidery

Yue embroidery refers to embroidered work done in the Guangdong Province. It is said that this style of embroidery was originally created by the Li ethnic minority about 2,000 years ago.

Yue2

Yue embroidery is best known for its ingenious designs that incorporate auspicious symbols and best wishes into its embroidery work, and it acts on the merits of various artistic forms such as painting and folk-art paper cutting. The Yue embroidery works collected at the Palace Museum (Forbidden City, Beijing) are the most representative and the most numerous works of this embroidery school.

Yue

There are two branches of the Yue Embroidery School which are “Chao Embroidery” and “Guang Embroidery”. In 2006, the “Guang Embroidery” was included in the representative list of the national intangible heritage and became an art protected by the Guandong Province as traditional folk culture legacy.

 

Shu Embroidery

“Embroidery Shu” is the general term for embroidery work mainly produced in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. It has enjoyed great fame since the Han dynasty and peaked in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). In the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Shu embroidery gradually formed its own industry.

Shu

In this style of embroidery, satin and colored silk are the main materials. The unique sewing methods and embroidery techniques contribute to its expressive and artistic effects.

La broderie Shu est utilisée à la fois sur des pièces artistiques et sur des objets qui peuvent servir chaque jour. Des dessus de lit, des draps, des pantoufles, des vêtements peuvent être brodés en style  Shu apportant couleur et beauté à l’utilisateur. De plaisantes pièces d’art sont également produites dans le style Shu. Elles peuvent être comprises de tentures murales, de paravents ou de rideaux. Les couleurs riches et les images vivantes que l’on trouve dans la broderie  Shu sont censées rappeler au spectateur le plaisir que l’on peut trouver dans chaque chose vivante. C’est peut-être pour ce plaisir que la broderie  Shu reste populaire de nos jours.

Shu2

Some artisans sum up the Shu embroidery as “rigorous and fine points, clear and elegant colors, along with beautiful and regular lines “. Shu embroidery is used for both artistic works and objects that can be used in everyday life. Bed covers, sheets, slippers, and clothes can all be embroidered in the Shu style, bringing color and beauty to the user’s possessions. Pleasant art works can also apply embroidery in Shu style, like wall hangings, screens or curtains. The rich colors and vivid images found in Shu embroidery are meant to remind the viewer of the pleasure that can be found in daily life. It is perhaps for this reason that Shu embroidery remains popular today.

 

Xiang Embroidery

Xiang embroidery is the general term given to embroidered work produced in Changsha and the surrounding areas (Hunan Province). This style of embroidery developed from folk Hunan embroidery and absorbed the very essence of embroidery schools like Su and Yue. The unearthed embroidery from tombs of the Chu Kingdom(1115BC-223BC) in 1958 and the 40 embroidered dresses dug out from Mawangdui tombs in Changsha in 1972 indicate that Hunan embroidery techniques reached a fairly high standard over 2000 years ago.

xiang2

During  its long history, Xiang Embroidery developed a unique style, relying on traditional features of Chinese paintings. The Award of Excellence and the First Prize were awarded to Xiang Embroidery, at the Turin Exhibition (Italy) in 1911 and at the Panama World Fair in 1933 respectively.

Xiang

Inheriting styles and inventions from long-standing embroiderers and incorporating modern cross-cultural designs, today’s Chinese embroidery has a new development for new designs and modern products, not only for its local specialties, but also for its universal aesthetic traits.

 

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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 atbloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

The Nuo Mask: A Collection of Primitive Art and Shamanism

Written by Juliette Qi

 

Evolution of Nuo Culture

Nuo can be considered as a Chinese ritual dating back to the earliest times, some dating back to the Neolithic period. This ceremony consists of various dances and processions for the gods, similar to the rites of exorcisms. In Chinese,”Nuo” means “expulsion of demons”. The character nuo(傩)refers to exorcism ceremonies performed by masked officiants. The ceremonies to which this term applies involve the expulsion of the used energies of the year and a purification to welcome the new energies. To justify this, most contributors use an etymological approach of looking for the oldest mention of character.

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The Nuo Dance

 

The Nuo culture, inscribed on the list of Chinese national cultural heritage, includes several genres, even though the one with the masks is one of the most important. We can also notice the existence of nuo altars, nuo rituals, nuo dances, nuo theater and even nuo customs. Later, the Nuo culture evolved and developed into an atypical art of Nuoxi, a popular show often to express wishes of prosperity and luck in various ceremonies.

 

Nuoxi: the Archaic Masked Theater

In ancient China, diseases or cataclysms were blamed on the presence of demons. It was therefore during the Nuo ceremonies and processions many masks were displayed, representing a whole pantheon of demons and gods. Thus, the accoutered villagers danced and tried to repel the evil forces and to attract the divine protection by using their thunderous masquerades. Several kinds of ceremonies exist and are devoted to the manufacture, use and protection of masks. Only men are allowed to make, use and protect Nuo masks. During ceremonies, men wearing a mask are considered possessed by a god or a divine spirit. During this period, they are forbidden to speak or move freely.

One can firstly note (a little bit too formal for a blog) through the Nuo masks the solicitation towards nature. Most of the divinations of the Nuo culture are thus representations of elements of nature. All actions seen and performed during rituals such as flattery, veneration and sacrifice are indeed a plea to nature. These ceremonies are not only the portrayal of the contradiction between man and nature. But we can also note the domination of man over the forces of nature. In those ancient times, these forces were seen as ugly, wicked, and weird creatures. By chasing them and beating them, men of that time thought that they could simultaneously drive out disease, death, and all other existences that clogged up human life. Finally, these rituals also represented human relationships as a whole. Through the Nuo ceremonies, we could promote the moral principles of a perfect education governing the human being.

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The nuo masks of Yuanling Town

 

Each scary and often grimacing mask corresponded to a specific god. Most of the time, these masks have jaws and eyes that are sometimes even articulated, which reinforces their terrifying effect. This effect is sought after because its purpose was originally to scare the demon Xiao Gui who was found responsible for diseases and calamities.

If the masks were originally bronze, the material used has evolved over time. Wood was used more and more. Although it is more fragile than bronze, it has the advantage of better weather resistance, especially when it is treated with paint or covered with plaster. According to ancient legends, in some areas travelers encountered Nuo temples every five kilometers. This testified to the importance of Nuo culture in ancient China.

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A Show in front of the Nuo Temple of Nanfeng

 

In recent decades, Nuo masks and documents attesting to the existence of such masks have been unearthed throughout China. Additionally, the masks which have been passed down from generation to generation, now circulate among people or are collected by Nuo actors and artists.

The collectors’ taste for Chinese masks seems to have played a role in spreading the term “Nuo” throughout the world. Through its use, not only does the term become known and commonplace, but masks take on a broader meaning than mere mobile artefacts. Representing or substituting for complex theatrical forms, these masks are collected for both their ritual aspects and entertainment functions.

 

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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 atbloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Yunjin: from Traditional Art to Cultural Heritage

Written by Juliette Qi

 

The Yunjin云锦 brocade craft from Nanjing (Nanjing) has been the traditional Chinese art of weaving for over 1500 years. This technique is still used today in the Jiangsu Province in eastern mainland China. Recognized for its aesthetic values and use, it was named by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

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Yunjin Cloth

 

Recognized Cultural Heritage

Mainly preserved in the Jiangsu Province in eastern China, this artform has more than a hundred processes, including the manufacture of looms, the sketching of patterns, the creation of jacquard cards for the preparation of drawings, the assembly of the craft and the multiple steps of the weaving itself.

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Yunjin brocade crafts in Nanjing require the use of a large loom, which must be operated by two craftsmen. The first is on the side of the lower parts and the second on the upper parts. The particularity of this loom is that it allows you to weave fine and noble materials such as silk threads, gold threads and peacock feathers. The tissues obtained are therefore of very good quality. Generally selected to make royal clothes, including the dragon robe and the crown for emperors in the past, this technique continues to be applied to the manufacturing of sumptuous clothing and souvenirs today.

 

Aesthetic and Academic Value

Fabrics made using this technique have a good reputation all over China. Thanks to the fact that this technique has been passed down from generation to generation, we can still make the famous dragon robe of the emperor. Additionally, fabric made using this technique nowadays is mostly intended for use by researchers and museums.

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Today’s Yunjin Weaver

 

The weavers used to perform their task by singing ballads, in order to memorize the technique which was used. Indeed, each rhythm corresponds to a very precise technique. While “passing the chain” and “separating the weft”, the weavers sing mnemonic ballads that help them to memorize the techniques they apply, thus creating san atmosphere of solidarity around the loom, as well as an artistic dimension.

For these weavers, their art is part of a historic mission: in addition to making fabrics for contemporary use, Yunjin is used for the reproduction of ancient silk fabrics for researchers and museums. Renowned for the splendor of its fabrics, Yunjin remains popular throughout the country.

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Reproduced Traditional Design

 

In Chinese history, a Yunjin brocade is a symbol of status and an emblem of the aesthetic notions. Yunjin brocade patterns varied depending on the grade of mandarins. As Guo Jun, a weaver who owns his own workshop, says, “The motives are the soul of the Yunjin brocade. Without these allegorical motifs, the creation of brocades lacks value. Technically, one could change the motif of a unicorn into a portrait of Donald Trump, but the traditional national costume would then become a casual t-shirt”. After forty years of weaving Yunjin brocades, Guo not only takes on apprentices to learn to design brocade motifs, but also teaches them Chinese traditional culture.

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Guo Jun, like many contemporary craftsmen, hopes that his workshop will train some apprentices who can make Yunjin brocade according to the modern aesthetic for that this craft can enter the international collection market and to suit modern styles. He thinks it is only with the recognition of collectors of art objects that the of Yunjin Brocade with noble character will be reborn.

 

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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 atbloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Dongba Writing: A Primitive Pictogram

Written by Juliette Qi

 

Dongba Culture and Naxi Ethnicity

In China, the Dongba culture, associated with Lijiang City in the Yunnan Province and Muli District in the Sichuan Province, refers to the traditional culture of the Naxi ethnic group. The Naxi live mostly in northern Yunnan, in Lijiang, Weixi, Zhongdian, Ninglang and Yongsheng prefectures.

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The Naxi in Traditional Costume

 

The Dongba culture is based on the polytheistic religion of the same name and also has own writing, dances, paintings and music. “Dongba” is the name given to shamans, types of wizards, who transmit this culture from generation to generation. The Dongba priest is an important figure in the community because he preaches the harmony between men and nature, which is a fundamental value among the Naxi people, just like the cult of the ancestors.

The Dongba religion, more than a thousand years old, has been influenced by Tibetan Lamaism over the centuries, but also by Taoism and Chinese Buddhism. In this religion, the elements of nature are considered as gods who rule the world.

 

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The polytheist Dongba religion

 

From an artistic perspective, Dongba culture is indeed very rich because it is transmitted and expressed by music and painting. Many colorful scrolls depicting religious scenes or deities can be found in Lijiang.

The city of Lijiang is a research center which studies the Dongba culture and keeps all objects related to this culture. Many Chinese and foreign researchers come to this place to study this fascinating culture. In religious rituals, the Naxis dance in their traditional costumes reminiscent of Tibetan ones. They also sing sacred texts, written in Dongba.

 

Dongba Writing: The Legendary Characters

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Wood Engraving of Dongba Writing

 

The dongba or tomba script (in romanized Naxi: ‘na-‘khi ²ggŏ-¹baw) is one of the scriptures used to write in the Naxi language, which is spoken by the Naxi people. It is more than 1000 years old and is probably the only predominantly pictographic writing system used today; however, some characters are used as syllabic characters.

There are currently 2000 religious works written in the Dongba language in which more than 2000 pictograms are used. These books are of crucial importance to understand the Dongba culture because they inform us about religion and customs but also about philosophy, history, literature, astronomy, medicine, fauna and flora as well as the paintings and music of this culture.

In the Lijiang prefecture in particular, the signs are usually written in dongba, han Chinese and sometimes in English. There are also dongba – hanzi / english dictionaries in the bookstores of the city.

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Dongba calligraphy

 

Dongba calligraphy is still practiced by using bamboo stencils, as well as prints, both of which usually use a high-quality handmade paper specifically made for Dongba.

The traditional production of dongba paper uses the bark of two shrubs, wikstroemia delavayi and wikstroemia lichiangensis, growing at an altitude of 2,000m above sea-level, as in the canton of Sanbei. The barks are cut into thin strips, soaked in a tray, and then dried on boards in the sun. There are also many murals of this writing, in bas-relief or 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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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 atbloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Puppet Opera and Folk Belief

Written by Juliette Qi

 

Peoples around the world use puppets in their shows. Puppets have often been used in dramas and comedies, adding of course music and sound effects to make the show more attractive. Puppet shows are very famous in China and many characters (Chinese) are as famous as Pinocchio is for Westerners.

 

 

The History of Shadow Play

It is said that the Mongols who participated in the conquest of China in the 13th century enjoyed being entertained by watching shadows in their camps. They took their own entertainment with them, and it became a popular form of recreation in the Ottoman Empire that later spread to the western parts of the territory.

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Puppets used for Chinese Shadow Play

 

Shadow plays were introduced in France when French missionaries returned from China in 1767 and gave performances in Paris and Marseille. Isst is in this way that the shadow play entered European territories. The performances of shadow plays were very successful in China and we began to call them the ” Ombres chinois “, which is the French equivalent of the shadow plays coming from China. This artform had its glory days in Paris during the 19th century. The cabaret ” Chat Noir ” (Black Cat) of Montmartre (Paris) also produced a large number of shows in the 80s.

 

The Popular Theatrical Show

It was usually the leader of the temple community who invited the troupe and decided on the show on the occasion of the birthday of the deity. The shows were presented in front of the temples on a stage set up for the occasion, in camphor wood sheds richly carved and covered with gold foil.As a reflection of the architecture of the temples, the shed has colonnades of dragons and the sculptures of characters or animals as symbols of good auguries.

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A Traditional Show in the Countryside

 

Like the classical spectacles intended for the deities, the audience, if there was one, did not pay to watch the puppet shows. Sometimes in the countryside, the presentation had only the god of the soil as a spectator. His altar was built in the middle of a rice field and no human spectator came to attend the performance.

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A Modern Show

 

Nowadays technical devices have appeared, computers control lighting, machines, modern paintings and dyes allow artists to create shadows and colorful figures. It is very difficult for some shadow show artists to cope with new technology, but some of them take advantage of these new technologies and use them wisely for the development of their performances in China.

 

The Relationship to Belief: Ceremony for the Deities

Even though the puppet performances were intended for the entertainment of the deities, the show itself was purely profane. In addition, the performance master always had some magic skills, mainly in exorcism. For example they used a wire puppet representing Zhong Kui for the purification of places infested by ghosts.

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The Character Zhong Kui

 

Other ceremonies could involve puppets with sheaths; they took place in the open air and usually at the event site. The ceremony was intended to pacify some wandering souls deemed responsible for disasters such as fires, floods and diseases.

After these ceremonies, the show was played normally in the sheds. People prepare suggestively their show about water if there was a fire, about healing if someone was ill etc … but without referring directly to the reason for the ceremony during the show.

 

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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 Weaving, Dyeing and Embroidery of the Li People: 2000-Year-Old Techniques

Written by Juliette Qi

 

The weaving and dyeing techniques of the Li* have a long history and unique characteristics. The Li mainly produce linen fabrics, cotton, brocade, printed and dyed products, embroidery and long bedspreads (a kind of brocade, the most delicate to make). Li women are skilled in spinning and weaving, and especially show their ingenuity in spinning and weaving “bombax” cotton and local cotton. Even before Song Dynasty (960-1279), Li women already knew how to weave and could weave colorful bed sheets and curtains.

 

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According to historical records, the traditional spinning and weaving techniques of Li cotton have a history of more than 2,000 years. Since the Han Dynasty (207 BC-220 AD), Li brocade has been offered as a tribute to feudal emperors of later dynasties. Cheng Bingzhao, a poet of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) once praised the exquisite work of Li brocade in these terms: “Li brocade is as beautiful and brilliant as the sun in the sky “. “Li” brocade is appreciated because it is exquisitely manufactured, beautiful in its design, practical, and has the characteristics of the spinning, weaving, dyeing and embroidery of the ethnic group.

 

The Different Techniques

The Li minority has its own spinning, weaving, dyeing and embroidery techniques and, in different regions, has also developed them according to local preferences.

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Spinning: The main tools involved are the hand wheel and the wheel driven by a pedal. Spinning using the hand wheel is the oldest spinning technique. Before cotton sheets grew in popularity, wild linen sheets were predominant in areas inhabited by the Li minority. People peeled the wild flax fibers they picked up during the rainy seasons and turned them into a base material after soaking and rinsing. After dyeing, they spun it by hand or with the spinning wheel and wove it.

Dyeing: The dyes are based on wild or cultivated plants. They are characterized by bright colors, speed of catch and various resources. Dyeing is important empirical knowledge of the Li people. In the Meifu dialect area there was also a knot dyeing technique, called “Jiaoxie dyeing” in the old days. This unique process follows the process of “knotting first, then dyeing and finally weaving” and has obviously integrated these three techniques.

Weaving: There are mainly two types of looms, the loom powered by a pedal and the craft “Juyao”. The craft “Juyao” is rather old, similar to that used by the Banpo clan six or seven thousand years ago. Li women could use the “Juyao” craft to weave exquisite, sumptuous and complicated patterns. The loom is even far ahead of the big modern jacquards in jacquard weaving technology.

 

Li Knot Dyeing

Knot dyeing, known as “Jiaoxie” in the past, played a major role in the textile printing and dyeing of the Li. The raw materials are knotted, dyed, spun and woven into colored fabric. The dye is mainly made from leaves of plants, flowers, bark or tree roots. Natural mineral dye is also an addition.

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Currently, Li-knot dyeing is widespread particularly in the Meifu dialect region. In this region, there are stands that support the fabric reserved for dyeing knots.The patterns are fine and exquisite. In the dialect region Ha, however, there is no support for knot dyeing. People tie one end of the vertical line to their waist and the other to their feet. The patterns consist of thick and irregular lines. The process of dyeing knots consists of drawing the pattern, tying, dying, re-dyeing, rinsing etc. However, the pattern decision process is often omitted by Li women, as various drawings are already in their memory.

 

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Knotting, also known as “wrapping”, plays a crucial role in knot dyeing because it directly affects the result. When the knotting is finished, the skeins are lowered from the wooden bearing and then dyed. After being dyed repeatedly too? Does not make sense on its own), they are dried to allow the indigo to be oxidized and air dried. Then the hanks are dyed repeatedly, until they reach the required color. When the dyeing process is complete, the skeins are loosened, rinsed with clear water to remove the excess color, and then dried. The vertical lines (weft) will then present a pattern. People can then weave the horizontal lines of color (chain) with the loom “Juyao”. An exquisite piece of art will then be born.

The Li process of ” dyeing knots first and then weaving”, although different from the other ethnic methods of “weaving first and then dyeing knots”, not only allows the pattern to show all its fineness, but also adds more color changes and causes the pattern to have a distinct color gradation. Such a kind of naturally formed chromatic halo makes the brocade more exquisite and superior in its artistic efficiency.

 

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NOTES*

The Li 黎族 (Lí Zú) is one of 56 ethnic minorities living in China. Their population was just over 1.2 million at the end of the 20th century. The majority of the Li live off the south coast of China on the island-province of Hainan, where they are the most numerous natives.

 

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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!