A Journey Through Chinese Ethnic Minorities’ Festivals

By Emma Marler

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

Water Splashing Festival

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

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

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

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

Sisters’ Meal Festival

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

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

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

Torch Festival

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

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

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

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


About Interact China

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

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

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


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

A Day in the Life of Miao People

By Emma Marler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Interact China

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

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

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


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

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. 

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 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. 

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 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. 

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! 

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. 

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! 

People of Yunnan: A Little Great World of Worlds

Written By Maria Giglio

Once upon a time in Southwest China, three brothers were born. As they grew up, it was clear that the boys were so different, that they also spoke different languages: Bai, Tibetan and Naxi.  Each brother then decided to settle in a different area between Tibet and Yunnan. This fascinating ancient legend about the birth of Southwestern Chinese culture is only a taster of the immense diversity to characterize the region.

Did you know?

Probably you already know that China is known for its high population density. Not everyone knows, however, that unlike many other huge Countries like the United States or Canada, Chinese territory is also very rich in cultural diversity. The whole land counts as many as 56 recognized minorities in China. Interestingly, almost half of them are concentrated within the Yunnan Province in Southwest China. Curious to know who they are? There are at least 25 communities inhabiting the Yunnan territory: Achang, Bai, Bulang, Buyi, Dai, De’ang, Dulong, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Jinuo, Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Mongolian, Naxi, Nu, Pumi, Sani, Shui, Tibetan, Wa, Yao, Yi and Zhuang.

The map below shows the territory of Yunnan, divided by ethnic groups.

Meet our partners and friends

Despite the alarming level of poverty spread across the territory, Yunnan people are renowned by locals and international tourists for their extreme hospitality, courtesy, natural cheerful spirit and vitality. Each different group has its own rich cultural heritage and proudly showcases it through colorful traditional attires, arts and crafts passed down across generations.

We at Interact China celebrate diversity and worship oriental beauty. We exist to support the people of Yunnan to move from poverty to prosperity cooperating with local artists to promote their products worldwide! Keep reading to get to know where our partners come from!

Dai

Dai or (Thai) people live in the Southern area of the Yunnan. As the name suggests, they are strictly related to their Thai (and Laos) neighbors.

Dai communities count as many as 1,000,000 people. This means that there is a lot of infra-group diversity, including language and custom, although all sub-groups share a common script which is completely different from national Chinese.

Dai culture is full of vitality and fun: one of the most important celebrations is the “Water Splashing Festival” recurring during the Dai New Year. What is the main activity of the ongoing celebrations? Well, you can see yourself..

Traditional attire for women include tight-sleeved short dresses to exalt the feminine figure. Especially in Xishuangbanna region, there is a preponderance of bright colors such as light green, pink and light blue. Here are two examples of our Dai products:

Hani

Hani people occupy a large portion of Southeast Yunnan. They have a long lasting tradition of artistic skills, especially textile art which they use as a way to express individual identity and personality.

Hani people especially give out their creativity through stitching and weaving. The recurring abstracted geometries suggest that a language hides through textiles. Below there is a taster of our collection of Hani bags: can you guess what these patterns tell?

Unlike many groups, Hani people love black and dark blue: they extract pigments from local Indigo plant. This doesn’t mean that they have a mournful spirit: usually dark backgrounds come with lots of colurful decorations.

Lahu

The Lahu people inhabit the Southern areas of the province. Still today, Lahu enjoy a very natural lifestyle. Animistic religion is still very diffused across the different sub-groups of this population.

Fun fact: legend says that the founding father of Lahu culture was a man who had been fed and raised by dogs since his birth.

As a result of this Lahu version of Romulus and Remus Roman legend, people of this tribe worship dogs as their ancestral protectors and tribute them in their arts and crafts. Usually the dog is represented with a triangle, like in these Lahu bags from our collection. Aren’t they a piece of art?

Lisu

Lisu people live in the North-western border of Yunnan close to Burma.  

These lively people too live in very natural environments and practice animistic religion. As a result, their art features a distinctively primitive character. A joy to the eyes of color-lovers. Lisu love to show off their creativity wearing bold vibrant outfits.

A truly social community, Lisu use clothing and accessories to attract one another and get together. For example, young men usually craft extravagant bags like the one below for courting. The more the tassels and pompoms, the merrier! This one makes a long way to the top…

Miao

Miao Hmong people constitute the largest minority group in China, amounting to as many as 9,426,007 people only in the Yunnan province. An originally nomadic people, large communities of Miao also inhabit neighbor regions of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

With over 5,000 years of history, Miao people can boast of an incredible infra-group diversity, although their artistic skills as featured in their impressive apparel can be considered a common feature. Miao people are worldly renowned for their textiles and rich, heavy jewelry which they proudly wear as expression of identity and history.

The making of incredibly elaborate silver jewelry such as the above horn headdresses not only reveals a high level of creativity but also an exceptional crafting technique. I dare you to find anything similar elsewhere! We are proud to offer you a huge variety of products from these incredible artists and lovely people. I didn’t know where to start, so visit our website for a full experience! 🙂

Miao silver art originates in the originally nomadic nature of the tribe. Silver jewelry was crafted from from melted coins to be carried around more easily when travelling. It was also used as dowry for marriage and more generally to express the family social status. Today, the Chinese government supports the preservation of Miao traditional silversmithing (accredited as National Cultural Heritage in 2006) yearly supplying special stocks of silver to Miao communities.

Tibetan

As the name suggest, Chinese Tibetan people occupy the north-western border of Yunnan, close to Tibet. Settled in the cold and windy mountains of the Tibetan plateau, these people live in harsh and isolated conditions, but are nonetheless cheerful.

Considerably influenced by Buddhist tradition, Tibetan people enjoy a modest lifestyle in deep connection with nature and spirituality.

The spiritual dimension of Tibetan culture reflects in their arts and crafts, entrenched with deep symbolic meaning. For example, many Tibetan jewels are made with Dzi, a local patterned black and white gemstone which is said to influence energy flux. Our Tibetan jewels keep it classic with turquoise and coral, acknowledged for their healing purposes:

Yi

Finally, the Yi people inhabit the remote mountains of northern Yunnan, even though the largest representation lives in Sichuan Province.

A peaceful people living in contact with nature, Yi are known for their incredible embroidery skills, which are full part of their cultural heritage and daily attire.

Yi people like to express their wishes for a better and wealthier life through their colorful attire. Despite the hardship of life living conditions, Yi textiles such as this lovely bag below are a full statement of joy. Can’t you feel some good vibes?

If you enjoyed this article, help us grow! We strive to make the lives of these communities better by creating opportunities for their social and economic development. Shop our articles and visit us soon!

About Interact China 

圖案

“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. 

圖案

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! 

Ethnic and Ethical: 4 Reasons to Love (and Live) Sustainable Fashion in China

Written By Maria Giglio

I remember the last time I walked around Regent’s Street area in London. It was last winter on a Saturday. Ok, it may not have been the last time, but surely it was the most memorable. I passed by a fur shop. A bunch of protesters stood in front of the building yelling at anyone getting out of the fancy door. Several bystanders just didn’t take them seriously or worse, they held their children tight, covering their eyes and ears, as if they were assisting to a terrorist attack. It was a moment of dramedy.

Greta Thunberg on her first climate strike in front of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm

Ok, we get it. In the era of veganism, environmentalism, climate change strikes, grumpy looks from Greta Thunberg to Donald Trump, not everyone is ready to give up their comfort food just yet, and for what? The promise of a better future?  Ain’t no hero, ain’t no saint, right? Wrong! Maybe this is an era in desperate need of a Marvel character, only this time the whole world is at stake. And by world, I mean trees, animals, insects, fish, your delicious bonsai, your Golden Retriever, but also you and I, our children and their children. Only problem is… The environmental alarm is set to 2030. In a world without fictional saviours, only humanity can save itself from self-destruction. Good news: we are still in time to make this happen. How? By compromising on our old habits: energy and food waste, water efficiency, responsible consumption. In a nutshell, sustainability. And compared to the payoff, this is really a small effort. The growing concern about sustainability issues has finally led many industries to look at it as a crucial bullet point in their performance checklist. Sustainable goals are increasingly becoming a key determinant of bottom line performances.

A relatively young capitalist economic superpower and a fast-forward technological hub, China is a fertile environment to grow sustainable businesses.  As an important branch of mass consumption, fashion is one of the most prosperous industries affected by sustainability goals. A workforce of young, western-educated home-comers are prepared to redress their homeland reputation with sustainable initiatives.

What is sustainable fashion?

The very first important question to ask is: what do we mean by sustainable fashion? The answer is, one that is environmental-friendly, but also people-friendly. Why would (and should) we support it, then?

It’s good for the planet

Sustainability intuitively relates to environmental issues. In what ways fashion can be sustainable under this aspect? First of all, generally ethical brands offer handmade products, usually unique pieces. Taking mass-production off the table implies to avoid frenetic production which exhausts resources rapidly, but also to avoid industrial processing which implies high level of energy emission, chemical material usage, water consumption, toxic waste.

Moreover, sustainable clothing is made of natural, organic and recycled materials. This contributes to reduce the ecological footprint not only because “what comes from nature returns to nature” but also because it reduces waste production. In fact, organic fabric generally ensures a better quality of clothing, which usually lasts longer than synthetic fibres. This discourages you from disposing of a shirt right after few months of usage.

It’s good for yourself

I’ve just pointed out that a very important feature of sustainable fashion is that is made of organic fabric. This is also good for your health. As a customer, you don’t want to risk to wake up covered in rash because of the wrong pajama. Organic fabrics usually have a very low level, if not free, of toxicity and carcinogens.

Moreover, let’s not forget that handmade production grants you top quality and awesome unique pieces, at a fairly reasonable prices. Don’t you want to feel special and unique too?

It’s good for other people

Environment and health are the most obvious reasons for going sustainable. But beyond those, we should think of sustainability more as a holistic concept, that refers to all the dimensions of our living together. It’s a call to share the global limited space and resources equally, responsibly and kindly, paying the same consideration for the well-being of others as the consideration we expect them to pay for us. The official plan for sustainability set up by the UN, the Sustainable Development Goals  (in short 2030 SDGs), amounts to 17 global goals in total including social goals in the global political agenda.

To mention some, gender equality, education, peace, justice, decent work, innovation. So, beyond the eco-friendly purpose, sustainable fashion also aims at achieving social equality. How? By taking care of the well-being of women and men behind each product. For example, the use of organic materials reduces the risk of exposure to and inhalation of toxic substances, thus safeguarding the worker’s health. Moreover, sustainable brands endorse a policy of fairness. Retailers in this slice of market are usually committed to promote the ethnic products of the most marginalised communities in the world to support their independent development. How? By granting fair pay and treating them as equal partners and avoiding engaging in abusive practices. Last but not least, by promoting their cultural heritage, often at risk of disappearance due to the mass-globalisation.

Ultimately, it’s good for your soul

Yes, it is. Don’t you feel already empowered by knowing that so much good can come from one simple gesture? You are one bag away from changing a life, for real.

Chinese Brands Committed to Ethical Fashion

And if you’re curious to know who is striving for social change in the Chinese fashion district, here are some examples:

Nuomi – A high-end fashion line, Nuomi empowers women with its handmade line, all using natural fibres such as bamboo, cotton, silk, and an admirable working ethics, creating employment opportunities in disadvantaged contexts.

Fake Natoo – is a true blessing for the environment, using exclusively recycled and donated materials. The fashion brand is also committed to create working opportunities for migrant female creatives by giving 10% of its annual revenue to their cooperatives.

NEEMIC – this high end fashion brand uses 100% organic materials, from fabric to cleansing products such as biodegradable soaps to avoid chemical waste.

Interact China: Do good, look good, feel good!

If you are looking for something that ticks all the boxes but is also culturally tripping, look no more! Interact China is devoted to promoting the delicate creations of Chinese and Southeast Asian ethnic communities.

Miao generations of lady crafters

Our mission is to improve the livelihood of these communities by providing them with the opportunity to sell their products in the global market.

Our co-founders Aileen and Norman on a trip to a Miao Village, Yunnan 2005

Each item is a little treasure telling the story of its people’s long journey. Do you want to hear it? The way we see it: do good, look good, feel good! You are just a click away from making it happen… Visit us on www.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. 

圖案

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! 

Silk Crossroads: Chinese Brocade in The World

Written by Maria Giglio

Ever wondered where all that Shakespearian costume vibes that Brocade shoes evoke come from? Well that’s an interesting journey.

Back in Renaissance, Italian folks went crazy about silk brocade. As a matter of fact, the English word brocade derives right from the Italian word broccato (interestingly sharing roots with the word broccoli!) to refer to the embossed (broccus means sprout in latin) effect produced on the surface by the weaving technique. However, brocade carries far more remote origins than Italian renaissance, dating back to the Chinese warring states period (around the 5th Century B.C), a time when the silk-secret had not been unravelled yet.

The character Jin (锦), used to compose the Chinese name for Brocade Zhī jǐnduàn (织锦缎) literally means golden dragonfly and refers to the noble texture of the fabric which originally was refined with gold and silver filigree which nowadays are replaced by copper or alluminium powder. Silk brocade features a unique colourful pattern, usually displaying flowers and nature, the distinctiveness of which is given by an irresistible tri-dimensional effect.

But first, the technical stuff

Brocade is not an independent but an auxiliary weaving technique used to ornate the main fabric with a carving effect. It is usually realised on a draw loom, where the basic design is created on multiple wefts (continuous brocade) while extra inlay effect is created with a supplementary weft (non-continuous brocade).

Chinese Brocade styles: the ones to watch

Chinese silk brocade has a long, established tradition. Mentions of silk brocade can be found in the Book of Songs, the oldest known collection of classic Chinese poetry (11th-7th Century B.C.). During the 1980s, pieces of brocade were retrieved at the Chu tombs of Warring States Period in Hubei Province.  Brocade varies from region to region, and many minorities have their own peculiar weaving style. Amongst the all, Yun, Shu and Song brocade are the most ancient and renowned types. To give an idea, Yun brocade developed over 1580 years ago during the Yuan Dynasty and is the most prestigious because of the use of gold and silver foil in weaving.

Shu brocade, coming from Sichuan and flourished between Han and Tang dynasties (3rd Century BC to 10th Century A.D.) is recognised worldwide as a textile gem, being characterised by a strong predominance of red.

Finally, Song brocade originates from Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, the homeland of silk and reached its peak of popularity during the Song Dynasty because of its soft texture and the bright colourful design.

Today, Chinese silk brocade is acclaimed worldwide as a cultural relic. In 2006, Yun, Song and Shu brocade were enlisted in the national intangible heritage.

An intriguing history of weft and theft 

Although silk textiles have been extremely popular in the Western world since Ancient Greece and Roman Empire, where they were being exported via the Silk Road, the Chinese Empire managed to keep the secret of silk production for over 30 centuries, which secured a China’s monopoly on the textile’s trade.

It was under Byzantine Empire that the secret of sericulture was finally revealed to the world. According to the legend, in 550 A.D. two monks sent by Emperor Justinian to discover how silk was made, stole mulberry cocoon, silkworm and eggs and brought them back to Constantinople.

Chinese influence on Italian fashion history

After the disclosure of sericulture to the world, the commercial relations between West and East slowly declined, and by the end of the 14th century, brocade production was not an Oriental prerogative anymore. In Italy, the cultural fervour characterised by a pursuit of beauty and perfection during Renaissance, favoured the evolution of silk weaving techniques and the elevation of textile artisanry to a form of art, contributing to the establishment of Italy as a fashion sanctuary.

Long-lasting cultural interweaving

Sometimes we think of fusion as a concept that belongs to our modern times. Every culture claims its own, unique, virgin identity. And in part that is certainly true. But the fascinating history of humanity tells us something slightly different. Without interaction, there is no inspiration. Without inspiration, there is no progress. What if the silkworm had never slithered out the Silk road?

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!

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!