The Importance of Women’s Day in China – an Innovative Tradition

Written by Maria Giglio

International Women’s Day (IWD) will take place next Sunday. Every year, on 8th March the world commemorates the efforts of worldwide women’s movements in advancing gender equality. Although today it carries no flags, IWD was particularly meaningful in the context of socialist and communist ideologies as the emblem of social struggles during the 20th century.  Some may turn up their noses to the significance of Women’s Day in modern days. If women were equal to men, what’s the need for a special day for women, you may ask. Sure, almost every woman in the world can cast a vote today. Women can drive buses, lead successful companies, go to space, and men can stay at home looking after children. However, gender inequality is also a matter of culture, of mindset. It follows women in many aspects of their daily lives, from family, to work and the street. IWD serves as a memento not only for the past, but also for the future, that women are, and must be, equal.

Now, moving on what is the meaning of IWD in China? Let’s just start from the fact that China’s history is as massive as its geographical extent, being characterised by great changes and overturns. For example, the establishment of Manchu Qing dynasty (1644-1911) marked the end of the Han era, bringing a radical cultural makeover with the abandonment of Confucian tradition and lifestyle. Other important changes happened during the 20th Century, such as the fall of the Empire and constitution of the Republic (1911) and Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1949).

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang celebrating IWD in 2015

As you may imagine, the image, status and role of women in Chinese society changed throughout history. How come we moved from loose cut Hanfus, lotus feet to sexy Qipaos? This article is an overview of such (R)evolution.

Troublemakers: the Confucianist conception of women in Ancient China

Because in ancient times Chinese society was strictly patriarchal, history was men’s business: made and told by men. Women are not much talked about, except the times they cause trouble. As a result, the picture of women we get from early historical records is that of sorts of Messalinas[1]: manipulative, unreliable, selfish.

The idea that women were somehow inherently bad and not to be trusted is nested in Confucian ideology. In Confucius Analects (17:12) we read:

“Shaoren and girls are difficult to handle. If you get familiar with them, they cease to be humble. If you keep them away, they get resentful.”

Confucian scholars followed the lead by constructing a conception of women as passive human beings, in need of guidance.

The woman with no talent is the one who has merit.

“Women are to be led and to follow others.”

In this context, the only social function attributed to women was connected to their unique ability to giving birth. As a result, women unable to have children were considered useless, a waste of society. Having a son, rather than a daughter, was a relief. 

It’s a man’s man’s world. The Han Period

The necessary separation between men and women started to be expressed in terms of yin and yang. If men were strong leaders (yang), women were docile followers (yin). If men were action, women were stillness. Because entrenched in yin-yang culture, the distinction started to be endorsed and socially accepted as something natural, falling in the universal order of things. For the centuries to come, it would be featured in all Chinese social institutions.

During the Han period (202 BCE – 220 CE), women gained a new light as members of the family. Women could even be family heads if widowed before the coming of age of their eldest son. As mothers, wives and daughters, they would show virtues of obedience, humbleness, self-sacrifice, resignation for the sake of the family. As expressed in Confucian teachings:

When young, a woman should obey the father, when married, the husband, when old, the son.”

Because Han laws allowed concubinage, the rule of virtues was instrumental to keep family women and especially wives from expressing their jealousy or conspiring against extra-marital offspring.

Women as doers. Rise and fall of women’s status.

In the Centuries following the Han period, women started to earn a different place in society. Girls would be now educated with their brothers, Buddhist nuns would provide spiritual guidance, entrepreneurial women would run their hotels.

Women were almost emancipated. However, by the beginning of the Song Period (960-1279), Neo-Confucian waves stroked again to revive the old idea of separation between men and women.

It is during that time that the practice of foot-binding started to spread, to continue until up recent times. Although never explicitly endorsed by Confucian scholars, foot-binding was socially perceived as a physical expression of Confucian virtues and soon became a way to distinguish virtuous women, worth to marry, from unvirtuous ones.

At the same time, a new belief caught on that while a man could marry twice, a woman could not. Although widow chastity was never formally enforced by law or endorsed by Neo-Confucian exponents, you can bet that widowhood could become a true nightmare for women, especially when childless. This is when the awful practice of widow suicides started to diffuse, being welcomed by many as the ultimate act of a woman’s self-abasement.

Art is an expression of feelings and most of the times of the painful kind. This is probably why, by the end of the Qing period (1644 – 1911), woman literature had proliferated in China. Generations of female novelists and poets from empresses to maids would find in writing a way to express their unspoken feelings, fears, and desire.

Uprising women: The Cultural Revolution

With the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911, the Country gained a new face. It was with the rise of the Communist party, though, that women could redesign their role within Chinese society.

Although International Women’s day had been officially recognised worldwide since 1914, in China it was marked as a holiday in 1922, following the example of the Soviet Union. There, women’s Day was regarded as an emblem of social struggles and the Communist fight. On March 8th 1917, a group of Russian women protested for ‘Bread and Peace’, opening the way to a series of revolts that would then lead to the October Revolution and the establishment of Lenin’s Communist regime.

In China, women were granted suffrage in 1947. In 1949, after the end of the civil war and the constitution of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Tse Tung, the International Women’s Day became an official holiday. Women also enjoy a half-day off for the occasion.

In Mandarin, the International Women’s Day is called 妇女节 (Fù nǚ jié). The characters used for woman, “妇女”( Fù nǚ), generally refer to married women and because of that, the day doesn’t resonate with young ladies. As a result, Chinese young folks created their own “Girl’s Day” (女生节, Nǚ shēng jié). This is celebrated on March 7th and, unlike IWD, it has nothing to do with politics. It developed during the 1990s in universities as a sort of Valentine’s day. On this day, students engage in bold courting activities, such as hanging huge red banners to declare their love to their fellow girls.

“I may not be yours, Min Jun, but you will always be my Qian Songyi.”
Notes

[1] Valeria Messalina was the third wife of Emperor Claudio. Cousin of Nero and second cousin of Caligula, she couldn’t fall too far from her genealogic tree: clever, charming and influential, Messalina had a reputation for being scheming and promiscuous. After discovering that her wife was conspiring against him, Claudio ordered her execution.

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! 

Whose Character is it Anyway? The Chinese Scriptworld in an East Asian Context

By Tom Booth

Chinese characters are perhaps the most identifiable feature of the Chinese language. The huge number of characters, in addition to their complexity, makes remembering them an imposing challenge for any aspiring learners of Chinese.

Some dictionaries list over 50,000 unique Chinese characters – that’s a lot to remember! Photo credit: Tutor Mandarin.

The first concrete evidence of character usage in China is from the late Shang dynasty (c. 1250–1050 BC) and is found as inscriptions carved on bronze vessels and oracle bones. By the end of the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) these pictograms had evolved and been standardised into a script that is similar to that which we have today.

Here we can see a visual representation of how modern-day Chinese characters, on the far right, evolved from material objects such as the sun, eyes and trees. Some modern characters, like the fish, are more abstract, whereas others, such as the mountain, retain much of the shape of the material object. Photo credit: Pintrest.

The Chinese writing system gradually spread throughout East Asia on official seals, letters, swords, coins, mirrors, and other decorative items imported from China. Scholars travelling from China brought with them texts and knowledge of characters: by the fifth century AD China, Korea and Japan were all using Chinese characters in their writing systems. As expressions of meaning rather than sounds, Chinese characters became a useful tool in allowing peoples from different cultures and languages to communicate, thus resulting in increased trade, diplomacy and exchange of knowledge.

Korean ambassadors visiting the Tang court. We can expect that they would have communicated partly through an interpreter and partly through the common writing system of Chinese characters. Photo credit: Ancient.eu.

The major difficulty facing countries with a shared writing system is how to adapt that writing system to one’s native language. If we look at Chinese and Japanese as examples, while both use the same writing system, they are radically different languages. One of the biggest differences is sentence order: Chinese syntax is ‘subject – verb – object’, whereas Japanese is ‘subject – object – verb.’

As an example, let’s take the easy English sentence ‘I eat bread’. In Chinese it is the same: ‘I eat bread’ wo chi mianbao 我吃面包, whereas in Japanese it is ‘I bread eat’ watashi wa pan o taberu 私はパンを食べる. 

As such, Chinese characters do not necessarily ‘fit’ neatly into the Japanese language. To overcome this problem Japanese has developed a native method of adapting Chinese characters to spoken Japanese by using kana. These symbols act as a phonetic alphabet and are primarily used as particles and conjugations.

Here we can see how Japanese kana, found at the bottom of each column, evolved from modern-day Chinese characters. As characters were written over and over again they became more and more cursive, resulting in the kana we see today. Photo credit: Wikibooks.

Although this kana system was developed in the tenth century, it remained unpopular amongst Japanese educated literati all the way up until the twentieth century. It was only used by women of the Japanese court who wrote poetry and letters to one another. Japan’s educated class continued to write in Chinese characters as a sign of sophistication and intelligence.

This text, entitled ‘the appearance of beautiful women’, contains mainly kana, and very few Chinese characters. This suggests it was for a popular audience rather than educated or elite eyes. Photo credit: blog.goo.ne.jp.

Japanese scholars went to great lengths to retain a Chinese style of writing, despite the difficulty of fitting it to the Japanese native language. Scholars continued to write essays and letters only using Chinese characters, and even went as far as adopting the ‘subject – verb – object’ syntax of Chinese. However, they developed several techniques to make them more accessible to Japanese readers, such as Japanese punctuation and reading marks.

Here is a very standard example of Japanese kabun or Chinese-style writing. The numbers, added later, indicate the order in which the characters should be read so as to fit the Japanese sentence order. So much effort to keep a Chinese style of writing!

Those with a knowledge of Chinese characters can probably understand most of what is written by these Japanese scholars, but it would appear non-standard, and probably a bit strange. The question, then, is this: are these Japanese scholars writing in Chinese or in Japanese? Are they thinking in Chinese or in Japanese? Ultimately, who can claim authority over these characters? We should think of Chinese characters not only in a Chinese context, but in a East Asian context and a shared Sinitic scriptworld.


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! 

Chinese New Year: Time to Check Your Odds, Rats!

Written by Maria Giglio

Chinese New Year celebrations officially started last 25th January, welcoming the year of the rat. The Chinese New Year is one of the few National holidays in which everything literally stops in China. Aside for unfortunate emergencies due to coronavirus, normally for the occasion even the well-known hardworkers Chinese get to enjoy a full 2-weeks break. Commuters travel to their home villages, businesses shut down for break, families happily welcome their sons and daughters who study in big cities. During these days, even in busiest metropolises such as Shanghai or Beijing, you could hardly find an open shop! 

Photo by Ridwan Meah on Unsplash

Been there, done that. 

If you have been reading this blog, you may be already familiar with the origins and roots of this festival, mentioned in last year’s article about the Year of the Pig. To recap for new readers and lazy ones, the Chinese New Year is also known as The Spring Festival and marks the beginning of the Lunar Year. The starting date changes accordingly, following the Lunar Calendar. This is based on a very ancient – and honestly, not exactly intuitive – system, according to which the Lunar years go at a 60 Gregorian Calendar (our Calendar) year pace. So why, you may ask, every Chinese new year the Zodiac sign is different from the past year? Well, because. The sexagenary cycle interlinks with a 10-year cycle of Tiangan (the heavenly stems) and a 12-year cycle of Dizhi (earthly branches). Tiangan are associated with the 5 elements of Chinese astrology and change every two years: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water (sorry, no Air). Dizhi are instead associated with the 12 animals of Chinese zodiac, and change yearly: Rat (鼠, shǔ), Ox (牛, niú), Tiger (虎, hǔ), Rabbit (兔, tù), Dragon (龙, lóng), Snake (蛇, shé), Horse (马, mǎ), Goat (羊, yang), Monkey (猴, hóu), Rooster (鸡, jī), Dog (狗, gǒu) and Pig (猪, zhū). Easy-peasy huh? 

Photo by Glen Hooper on Unsplash

So, to recap, 2020 is indeed the year of the Rat, having been the last Rat’s year in 2008. But 2020 rat is not the same as 2020’s rat. In fact, this year we celebrate the Metal Rat, whereas 12 years ago, it was the year of the Earth Rat. Why is that so? Because the same heavenly-earthly branches combination occur every sixty years. Last Metal Rat year recurred in fact in 1948. However, each zodiac sign has also a fixed heavenly branch, which in the case of the Rat is water. 

Photo by Dru Kelly on Unsplash

Got it. But what’s so special about rats? Personality traits. 

The rat is associated with intelligence and a sharp mind. As our Tom explains in his new blog, the rat won the Heavenly Race using a ride from the strong and kind but not so canny Ox.  

According to the Chinese Horoscope, in general people born in Rat years are astute and successful. Yet, they don’t disdain peaceful life from time to time. Rat women are very well organised and value tradition. In Chinese culture, at home they are loving wives, caring mothers and great leaders. At work they are reliable, resilient and capable. Likewise, men born in the year of the Rat are very flexible and adaptable, showing great creativity and an innovative spirit. Unlike women of the sign, however, they are not natural leaders. 

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

What are the characteristics of metal rats? Highly talkative and charismatic, they are people catalysers who like to be at the centre of attention. For the same purpose, they tend to get jealous and somewhat possessive.  

Matching opportunities. 

The rat’s permanent heavenly branch is water, and therefore it gets along well with signs with opposite fixed heavenly branch, which in our case is earth. Thus, Rats are mostly compatible with Ox, Dragon and Monkey. 

Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash

Wishes for 2020 

Despite usually a zodiac’s year is the most unlucky year for those falling under its sign, Rats can expect quite a good year ahead in terms of career success. Health? Not so well, but if taken care of, it’ll come around. 

Let’s be honest. This Lunar Year hasn’t started with the right foot. But we hope that the stars got it right, so happy Chinese New Year from the Interact China team!

If you enjoyed this article, please leave a like or comment below! 🙂

Photo by Giuseppe Martini on Unsplash

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! 

Chinese New Year 2020: Year of the Rat and The Heavenly Gate Race

By Tom Booth

Chinese New Year starts on Saturday 25th January 2020, the first day of the Lunar Year and the beginning of China’s Spring Festival. Lunar Years, unlike Solar Years, exist on a twelve year cycle called the Zodiac Cycle or shengxiao. Each year in the cycle is associated with one of twelve animals and that animal’s reputed characteristics.

Red Morley Hewitt / Unsplash

Chinese New Year celebrations are not just limited to China: Korean New Year and Vietnamese New Year share many similarities with Chinese New Year. Nowadays it is celebrated internationally in regions and countries with significant numbers of overseas Chinese residents.

Vernon Raineil Cenzon / Unsplash

This year is the Year of the Rat, the first in the Zodiac Cycle. But why is the Rat number one? We normally think of rats as small and dirty pests rather than revered celestial beings. What puts them ahead of much larger, more impressive creatures such as dragons, tigers and oxen?

Chris Singshinsuk / Shutterstock

The answer can be found in the legend of the Heavenly Gate Race that originates from Chinese mythology. The story is ancient, and has been retold many times, each time with slight variations on the content. Here is just one version, without too much elaboration.

Dan Hanscom / Shutterstock

Thousands of years ago the Jade Emperor made the official decision that the lunar years would each be named after animals. In order to determine which animal would be given each year, he devised a race: the first animal to reach him in his palace would be named after the first year, second place the second year and so on.

Esplanade.com

In front of the palace was a deep, fast flowing river. The rat, unable to swim across such treacherous waters, asked the ox whether he could ride on his back to cross the river. The ox, being gentle and good natured, agreed without complaint. However, as they reached the opposite bank the rat leaped off the ox’s back and rushed towards the emperor. It arrived first, and so the first year in the Zodiac Cycle was attributed to the rat.

Favpng.com

The second year was given to the ox.

Third was the tiger, who was strong and agile but struggled against the strong waters.

Fourth was the rabbit, who used its agility to jump between stones across the river.

Greta Samuel / Culturetrip

Fifth was the dragon, who saved a starving village by providing them rain, thus slowing him down.

Impressed by the dragon’s action, the emperor said the dragon’s child could be sixth: the snake slithered out and declared that it was the dragon’s son, and so the year was given to the snake.

The swift horse came seventh. 

The goat, monkey and rooster were not good at swimming, and so built a raft and sailed across, coming eighth, ninth and tenth.

The dog was good at swimming but enjoyed splashing about in the water too much and so came eleventh. 

The pig came twelfth, having got tired and stopped off for a rest half way through.

Greta Samuel / Culturetrip

One animal seems to be missing from the list of twelve: where is the cat? Cats have historically been popular animals in China, and have a long history of domestication. The absence of the cat is explained by two different stories. The first story says that both the rat and the cat were riding the ox towards the Jade Emperor’s palace. At the last minute, the rat pushed the cat off the ox’s back and into the water, eliminating it from the race. It is said that this is why cats hate water.

Greta Samuel / Culturetrip

The second story has the cat and rat as old friends who used to help each other out. The rat would wake the naturally lazy cat up in the mornings, and in return the cat would protect the rat from larger predators. On the day of the race, the rat left the cat sleeping in order to gain a head start in the race. The cat failed to wake up in time and so couldn’t participate in the race.

Whichever story you take, it explains the hatred between cats and rats – which seems to go almost beyond the instinctual relationship of predator and prey!

The Year of the Rat is therefore a year when everyone can aspire to the wit and intelligence of the rat in the Heavenly Gate Race! 


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! 

To Live by Yu Hua: A Tremendous Journey into The Meaning of Life

Written by Maria Giglio

活着 To Live – A novel written by Yu Hua is the history of China 20th seen through the history of a family. 

One of the most prominent authors of post-Maoist literature, Yu Hua voices the anxiety and criticism of a generation lived in Cultural Revolution with sharp realism. 

The novel is written in the form of story in a story and uses first-person narration to emphasise the realistic feature of the family facts told by the main protagonist Xu Fugui and intertwined with the historical events that marked China during 20th Century, such as the Land Reform, the Cultural Revolution and the Great Famine.  The author revealed that for this novel he was inspired by an American folk song, “Old Black Joe”. The song talked about an old slave who, despite having experienced hardship and sorrow, would still look at life as a gift. 

The novel, published in China in 1993, was originally banned for its historical controversy, but it was later proclaimed as one of the most important works of Chinese contemporary literature. Today, To Live is considered a cult and a must-read to those interested in Chinese history and literature. 

Plot 

The novel takes place in southern Chinese countryside. The plot unfolds with the technique of double narration. The first narrator is a young student who travels across Chinese villages and connect with farmers and peasants to learn their stories. The second narrator is Xu Fugui, the protagonist, an old man who lives a simple, bucolic lifestyle. After having survived the death of all his loved ones, he now spends his days accompanied by an old ox also named Fugui that he once saved from slaughter. gui discloses his life to the young stranger starting from the time he was a young and arrogant rich man. A son of a wealthy land-owner, Fugui used to spend all his family money on gambling and prostitutes, constantly disregarding his father’s admonitions and his responsibilities to his pregnant wife Jiazhen. One day, Fugui squanders all the entire fortune over gambling, which causes his father to die of despair. In poverty, desperation and misery, he finds wisdom and balance and eventually grows a better man. He starts to appreciate the importance of hard work, the value of his wife who after-all has never abandoned him.

He lives through the atrocities of civil war as a brave and loyal friend. He strives for being a caring and generous father to his elder daughter Fenxia and the young son Youqing. Over his hard life, Fugui sees all his loved ones one by one tragically and prematurely pass away.  Nonetheless, he appreciates that he, after all, lives. And so, live he does, in modesty and compassion.   

It’s better to live an ordinary life. If you go on striving for this and that, you’ll end up paying with your life.” 

To Live – Yu Hua

Yu Hua’s writing is overwhelmingly realistic and crude and doesn’t spare violent and excruciating details. However, it is right through his its raw descriptions that he engages the reader with an especially intense and emotionally charging narration. 

Movie adaptation

In 1994, To Live was adapted to the screen with a homonymous movie directed by Zhang Yimou. The script keeps somewhat loyal to the plot, although the rawness of Yu Hua’s narrative is highly sweetened with a rather melancholic tone. More emphasis is given to the historical and social context in which the drama takes place. The ox, which seems quite a fundamental, symbolic character of the book implicitly reflecting the protagonist’s stoic endurance, is also removed from the script. Moreover, the original countryside setting is replaced with a northern city background. Finally, the script adds symbolic insights of shadow puppetry.  

Ironically, even though death, violence and pain are at the centre of this emotionally charging, beautiful Chinese tragedy, the author chooses to name the novel To Live. I read it as an exhortation for everyone to always look at life with kind eyes, no matter what happens. To put it in Fugui’s words:

“No matter how lucky a person is, the moment he decides he wants to die, there’s nothing that will keep him alive.”

To Live – Yu Hua

The novel bares human frailty in all its facets, to send a message of endurance.  

In 2003, an official English version of To Live was edited by Michael Berry (Professor of Contemporary Chinese cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara) and published by Anchor Books & Random House of Canada Limited.  

The book in its English version is available on Amazon at less than 15.00 $. Have you read it already? I would love to hear what you think!

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! 

Multicultural China: A Brief History of China’s Population

By Tom Booth

In Europe most people think China is a country made up of only one ethnic identity. For many people the standard image of a Chinese person is someone with dark hair and small eyes that speaks Mandarin and writes in logograms.

A Chinese man showing off his patriotism. Image credit:  People take part in flash mob in Shanghai to celebrate 70th anniversary of P.R.C. founding / Xinhua

In reality, China is a country of great ethnic diversity. Out of China’s 1.4 billion total population there are more than 100 million people that are from ethnic minority groups. The largest of these ethnic minorities, the Zhuang, have a population of 18 million – that’s almost twice the size of the population of Greece!

A breakdown of the population of modern-day China. Created in https://www.meta-chart.com/pie

China is made up of 56 ethnic groups, each with a distinctive identity and culture. They have unique languages that are very different from Mandarin Chinese: the Miao Hmong people speak a language that derives from the Sino-Tibetan language family, while the Manchu people speak a Tungusic language that is similar to that spoken in Siberia.

The Miao Hmong people are distinguished by their elaborate silver headwear and beautiful embroidered clothes. Image credit: Xinhua News

They also have a range of religious beliefs: the Uyghur people are predominantly Muslim, while the Yi traditionally engage in shamanistic ancestor worship.

Uyghur people at daily prayer in a mosque. Photo credit: Euronews

This diversity is often celebrated as a key part of modern China’s identity.

A section of a poster in Beijing celebrating China’s 56 ethnic minority groups. Photo credit: Wikipedia

China’s multiculturalism can be best understood through two key points:

  1. China is an ancient country with a history stretching back many thousands of years. 
  2. China is extremely large, being almost the same size as the whole of Europe combined.

China has an extremely long and varied history. Over 3000 years ago China was divided into many different states. Many of these were grouped around the Yellow River due to it being excellent land for growing crops. Eventually groups began fighting over land, leading to the Warring States period 475-221 BC.

Map of China around 3000 years ago. Image credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art. http://archive.artsmia.org/art-of-asia/history/chinese-dynasty-map.cfm

The victory of the Qin in 221 BC saw China unified for the first time under Emperor Qin, the first emperor of China.

Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of a unified China. Image credit: Wikipedia

However, the China of the Qin was not the same as the China of today. In fact, it was much smaller, and was only around the east coast. Throughout China’s history, the size of the Chinese empire changed dramatically. The Tang dynasty spread far into the west, while the Song dynasty had shrunk into the south. The Ming saw rapid expansion into the north, and Qing China controlled the whole of Mongolia and large chunks of eastern Russia. Different territories contained different ethnic groups, but were all part of the Chinese empire.

The changing shape of China over history. Image credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art. http://archive.artsmia.org/art-of-asia/history/chinese-dynasty-map.cfm

China not only occupied different areas of land, but was also ruled by different ethnic groups. The Jin dynasty was established by Jurchens, the Yuan by Mongolians and the Qing by Manchu people.

Chinese men enjoying food together – notice the queue, the universal male hairstyle during the Qing dynasty. Image credit: Wikipedia

As such, ethnic minority influence is felt in all areas of modern Chinese life. Even in the Forbidden City, perhaps the most iconic monument in all of China, signs and notices are written in Manchu language, tying the place to its history under the Manchu rulers.

This sign in the Forbidden City is written both using Chinese logograms and Manchu language. Image credit: Kevin James WordPress https://kevinjames.wordpress.com/

China has also been closely connected to the outside world. The Silk Road ran all the way from Europe, along the east coast of Africa, through the Middle East and Asia Minor, around the south Asia subcontinent before entering China. As such, there was an almost constant flow not only of international goods such as spices, herbs and trinkets but also of people, knowledge, religion and language.

An image of trade on the Silk Road – camels, horses, elephants, chariots and more, reflecting the diversity of participation. Image credit: Ancient Origins https://www.ancient-origins.net/

As such, the idea of ‘China’ meant different things at different times in history. Because it is such an ancient and large country it is difficult to put a finger on a single ‘Chinese’ identity. One need only look at the huge variety of dialects, cuisine, dress and religious beliefs across Chinese history and the present day to recognise that China has always been, and continues to be, a place of huge ethnic diversity. In this light, perhaps ‘multicultural’ is the most accurate description of what it means to be ‘Chinese.’ 


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! 

DIY: Make Your Own Chinese Book!

By Stefania Miletti

I’ve always had a passion for books, the felling of the paper in your fingers, and the emotions that words can provoke, are my favorite things. So when I learned that I could make them, I was so excited! And thus begun my journey to learn all the different techniques to make books. 

I have to admit that usually I make European bond style books, but I was intrigued by the idea of learning Chinese binding methods, so after a bit of research and different trials, I think I got it. 

I’m going to keep this tutorial as simple as I can, but if you would like to know more about specific terminology or bookbinding tools and techniques, fell free to ask! 

The Tools You Will Need

  • Paper sheets, I used 40 A4 sheets 140 gms, but you can use whatever paper size and gms you want your book to be
  • Book cloth (if you don’t have book cloth you can use whatever fabric you have at home)
  • Cardboard 2mm (if you don’t have this particular height, you can use whatever you have at home, even cereals boxes)
  • Bonefolder, if you don’t have a bonefolder you can use a flat ruler
  • Ruler
  • PVA glue, better if liquid
  • Brush
  • Waxed thread, if you don’t have this you can use whichever thick thread you have or normal thread
  • Sewing needle 
  • Screw hole punch, or an awl in alternative, to make stitching holes in your paper

Optional:

  • Decorative paper
  • Book press, if you don’t have a book press any weight will do, for example a big dictionary or a pile of heavy books.

A Little Bit of Background

Chinese booking is an ancient art that as seen many different types of bookbinding techniques. One of the most known is the “stitched/stab binding”, which is not only traditional in China, but many East Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. Many, including myself at the beginning, often confuse Japanese and Chinese stab binding. Although very similar, they are different. In fact, it is not a surprise that, like many other aspects of Chinese culture, bookbinding techniques were spread throughout Japan during the Tang dynasty. The Major difference between the two techniques is that in Japanese bookbinding, the distance between each sewing station is the same, while in Chinese booking usually the middle length is smaller than the others.

Japanese Binding
Chinese Binding


How to Create the Cover

I find that when books have a hardcover, it makes them more durable and easier to carry around.

For the hard cover, we start with the cardboard. As I mentioned before I’m making an A4 book, which measures, 210 × 297 millimeters, but I want my cover to be a little bit bigger than the paper, so that the angles of the paper do not get ruined.

  • Cut 2 cardboard pieces that measure 2 millimeters, more than the A4 size, on every side EXCEPT the side where we are going to stitch our book. So the overall measurements for each cardboard should be 212 x 301 millimeters.
  • Since we want our cover to bend, we need to cut out a joint piece. A joint piece is a small strip that we eliminate from our cover to allow it to bend. This joint piece is usually quite small. I measured 3 cm from the left and cut a strip of 4 millimeters wide. Do not throw the joint piece away! We’ll need it for later.
  • Cut 2 pieces of book cloth, of length 30.1 + 4 cm (2 cm extra for each side) and height of 21.2 + 4 cm (2 cm extra for each side).
  • Glue the book cloth to the cardboard. Tip: I would advise to help yourself with the ruler in order to glue all the pieces straight.
  • Now is the part where our joint piece come to place. Do not put glue on the joint piece but place it right in between the 2 pieces of carboard, and after you glue everything else in place, take it off.
  • With the help of a bonefolder, or a ruler, smooth the surface so that all air bubbles and excess glue are eliminated
  • Now the corners! For this part I think it’s best that I actually show you how to make them. They are called librarian corners, they are round, different from the normal pointy corners. I have to admit that are my favorite type of corners to make.
  • After you made all the corners, with the help of a bonefolder or a ruler, you can fold the sides.
  • Gently tap all the corners with the bonefolder or ruler to make them rounder.
  • Cut 2 pieces of decorative paper, to glue on the inside of the cover, that are the same size as the inside pages of your book, in my case A4 paper (210 × 297 millimeters)
  • Glue the decorative paper on the inside of the cover, and smooth with bonefolder or ruler to avoid air bubbles and wrinkles. Don’t forget to score the gap created by the joint earlier, so it can bend properly. 
  • Let it dry in the book press or under some weights and repeat the process for the back cover, and the cover is done!

How to Create the Text Bock

Now let’s dive into the text block. 

  • First of all, we need to mark for sewing stations. Taking a pencil, a ruler and a guide paper, mark 4 spots. Measure 2 cm from the edge of the paper and trace a straight line, this is where our stitching stations will be situated. Station A and D are around 2 cm from the border, station B and C are around 8.5 cm from the border.
  • Alling the guide paper to sections of papers (I did 7 to 10 sheets of paper per block)
  • Using a Screw hole punch or an awl, pierce the stations. It can be difficult but don’t be discouraged, because at the end the stations holes won’t be seen except the ones on the cover.
  • Once we pierce everything, including the cover, we can start sewing.

Stitching 

Now it’s time for the fun part! Take your needle and thread. I’m using a thick sewing needle and thick waxed thread. If you are using normal sewing thread, please double or triple thread it to give your stitching strength.

  • Take your thread and measure 5 times the height of the cover. With Chinese binding, it is better to have more thread than run out of it. 
  • Take a portion of the pages, and start from the bottom of C station hole, put a little bit of tape (one that does not ruin the paper), on the end, so that it stays in place. This will be where our final knot will be tied. 
  • Take the whole book and wrap with the needle around the spine and back into station C. Then move toward station D as shown in the picture 
  • Go through station D, wrap again the needle around the spine and through station D as shown below
  • Now wrap the needle around the head/corner of the front cover and back through station D
  • Go again first through station C, then through station B and finally through station A. Once reached station A, wrap around the spine with the needle and back into station A.
  • Wrap the needle around the head/corner of the front cover and back through station A
  • Then go toward station B
  • Wrap the needle around needle around the spine and through station B, and move toward C
  • Remember that at the beginning we took part of the papers and left part of the thread in between the pages to tie a knot in the end? Now, instead of pulling our needle all the way through station C, we are going to return the needle in between the pages where the end of the thread is. 
  • Ensure that the stiches are all tight and with the 2 ends tie a knot.
  • Cut the excess thread and we are DONE! 

Now you have a Chinese bound book!













About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact Chinain 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 Fashionvia 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!

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! 

Chinese Folk Tale: The Butterfly Lovers

Written by Stefania Miletti

Here I am again with another love story, but what can you do when there are so many touching stories in Chinese culture! If I could I would share them all! But for today, I have “The Butterfly Lovers”, a tender young love in a time immersed in traditions.

The Butterfly Lovers

Once upon a time, during the Eastern Jin Dynasty, the costumes were different from what we know now. In fact, while the boys enjoyed their daytime at school, girls stayed at home to help with the household chores. However, Zhu Yingtai, ninth and only daughter to the Zhu family form Shangyu, Zhejiang, begged his father to let her go to school and learn. At first her father was against it but after Zhu continued unceasingly to ask him, he agreed to let her go at the condition that she’ll be accepted in one of the schools. Her father was quite sure that no school would have wanted a girl among their students. But, oh boy, was he wrong to underestimate the intelligence of her daughter. In fact, Zhu, knowing very well that it would have been impossible for her to get admission as a girl, disguised herself as a boy and successfully got admitted into a Hangzhou school, where also her aunt lived. 

Every day, she will dress up as a guy and attend the school. In her class, she became close friends with a boy named Liang and, with the passing of time, the two friends became inseparable. With time Zhu started to have stronger feelings for him, realizing she was in love. The problem was that Liang thought she was a boy, but she was not ready to give up. Zhu thought of a plan; she asked Liang to come to her hometown after graduation and to ask her father for her “sister’s hand”. Liang agreed without thinking twice, he did not want to lose Zhu, so he thought that by marring his sister, they will still be good friends and will see each other quite often.

With this promise in mind, soon after graduation, Liang found a job and worked extremely hard to save money for the marriage. Once he reached his goal, he lost no time and presented himself at Zhu house. When Zhu finally saw him, after one year of being apart, she felt as if all her hopes and dreams had come to life. She run into her loved one’s arms crying and shouting: “Liang! It’s me! I’m Zhu, your friend! As you can see that I’m a girl, now there’s nothing standing in our way, we can finally be happy together!”

Liang was initially shocked at this revelation, but soon everything made sense. Now he understood why he felt such strong connection with Zhu since the beginning. Gathering his courage, he confronted Zhu father, explaining his profound love for his daughter and asking for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, the father did not agree, he explained that Zhu hand was already promised to a wealthy merchant and there was nothing the young man could do to change his mind. 

The lovers’ hearts were shattered. Liang left, empty handed, feeling more alone than ever. The mere thought of him not seeing Zhu again, filled him with despair and on his journey home, he collapsed and died. 

When Zhu heard of his lover’s death, she lost her all her will to live. She agreed to marry the merchant her father choose for her at the only condition that the wedding procession passed by Liang’s grave. 

The dreaded wedding day came, and Zhu collected herself, put up a façade and started the wedding procession. Wind began to howl stronger and stronger, and the shy darkened as the procession neared the cemetery. Suddenly Zhu jumped out of her palanquin and through herself on his lover’s grave, crying her heart out. As the weather conditions worsened, a lightning bolt broke the grave open and Zhu jumped into it. 

After that the storm subsided as fast as it had started. But when the people reached the grave, trying to find the bride to be, all they could see was an empty coffin. Then, out of the blue, two beautiful and radiant butterflies flew out the coffin, dancing and chasing each other like two young lovers. People all around were in disbelief and watched the scene as the two butterflies flew out of sight, beginning their lives together.

From Story to Music

In 1959 “The Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto” was written by the skilled minds of two Chinese composers, Chen Gang and He Zhanhao. The work they presented is astonishing and is divided into seven section. Each of these sections depicts a clear image in the story’s timeline, from the joyful youth, to the unbearable sadness derived from a lost lover.

I assure you that listening to this concerto will make you feel every emotion that the butterfly lovers experienced in their story, especially thanks to the brilliant execution of the orchestra.

Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. 







About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact Chinain 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 Fashionvia 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!

Match Made in the Stars: a Chinese Folklore Story

Written by Stefania Miletti

All of us have a soft spot for love stories. Let’s admit it, deep inside we all want to believe that true love concours all. This believe is deep rooted in all culture and has prevailed though time till nowadays. 

Well, the other day I stumbled across this fascinating story and wanted to share it, hoping that it will make you smile.

The cowherd and the weaver girl (牛郎与织女)

This is one of the most famous Chinese folklore stories, believed to date back to the 6th century B.C.

The two main characters, the cowherd and the weaver girl are stars, the first one denotes to the Altair star and the second one to Vega star. 

The two stars fell hopelessly and deeply in love with each other.

Unfortunately, according to the rules of the Heavens, for stars and deities it is forbitten to have passionate relationships. So, when the word of their tender love reached the Empress of the Heavens (plot twist: also the grandmother of the Weaver Girl) she was outraged and, as a punishment, she banned the Cowherd star to earth as a mortal. On the other hand, the weaver girl was bound to weave forever without rest. In fact, according to Chinese mythology, the clouds were “weaved” with magical silk threads of different colors according to the time of day or season.

But one day, thanks to the pleads of a group of fairies that wanted to pay a visit to the Bi Lian lake, the Heavenly Empress let the Weaver Girl join them. At the same time, the Cowherd Star, was reborn into a farming family, and was named the Cowherd. Unfortunately, after his parents died, he was left alone with his siblings, who treated him badly and after some time, they chased him out the house with only a cart and an Ox. Together with the old animal, the brave protagonist was able to overcome great hardships, and managing to rebuild their life and live happily in a tiny house.

What the Cowherd didn’t know, is that the Ox was no ordinary animal, in fact he was a Golden Ox star.

One day, the Ox spoke to the Cowherd, much to his surprise. The animal said to him: “You have to go to the Bi Lian lake today, there you’ll find fairies. If you steal the red dress, while they are in the water bathing, the fairy will become your wife”. The Cowherd, not quite believing what he had just heard, took the advice since he was feeling lonely and yearned a partner. 

He went to the lake, and hold and behold, he found the fairies. Once they were all in the water, he took the red dress. But the fairies, realizing that there was a human around, left the lake, all but the one whose red dress was missing.  Gathering his courage, the Cowherd walked forward and asked the Weaver girl if she was willing to marry him in exchange for her dress. The girl immediately realizes, upon seeing him, that he was her long lost love so, hesitantly, she accepted.

From that day, their life together was perfect. They had a daughter and a son and were really happy as a family. But it was too good to be true, their happiness was not long lived. In fact, when the Heavenly Empress heard the word that the two were reunited, she was simply furious! Blinded with rage she sent the heaven guards to retrieve the Weaver girl. 

Back on earth, the old Ox sadly passed away, but before he died, he spoke again telling the Cowherd to keep his ox hide because he will need it to fly to the sky.  Once the Weaving Girl heard this story, she realized that the old Ox was indeed the Golden Ox Star that was sent to earth because he tried to plead in favor of the Cowherd Star.

Unfortunately, the heavenly guards found the two lovers, they took the Weaving Girl and run away. But right when she was flying away, the Cowherd shouted: “Weaver girl, wait for me!”. When she looked back, she saw the Cowherd following her and the guards wearing the magical ox hide and carrying their two children, each of them in a basket. They came closer and closer, the Cowherd almost managed to catch up with the heavenly guards, when the Heavenly Empress appeared. Raging with fury with a wave of her hand, she created the Milky Way between the two spouses, creating an impassable barrier. 

Now the only thing they could do is gaze at each other for eternity, knowing that they are so close yet so far apart. They cried and cried, all of the celestial being felt sorry for them, hence a flock of magpies build a bridge between the lovers. Eventually even the Heavenly Empress pitied them and finally allowed the family, mother, father and the two little children, to stay in the sky and let them meet each other once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month.

After this story, the 7th day of the 7th month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, is known as “the Chinese Valentine’s Day” (七夕节) 








About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact Chinain 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 Fashionvia 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!