Magazine article New Internationalist

Folk Fabric: Chinese Villages Where Unsung Artists Dwell [Qianjixiu]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Folk Fabric: Chinese Villages Where Unsung Artists Dwell [Qianjixiu]

Article excerpt

[Graph Not Transcribed]

A 350-metre-long patchwork quilt made of 1,000 cloth pieces is carrying an urgent cultural message to the Chinese. The quilt symbolizes the need to preserve the country's folk art, which is in danger of dying out. One thousand people from farming families living along the Yellow River contributed their talents to the quilt, named Qianjiaxiu, Chinese for '1,000 families embroidery'.

Guo Qingfeng, a folk-arts teacher from north-west China's Shaanxi province, spearheaded the project. 'Folk art is like the soil of our traditional culture,' he says.

In their mission to conserve folk art, Guo and five students set off from the origin of the Yellow River at Qinghai in north-west China, and travelled to its outlet at Shandong in the east. The idea of patching together 1,000 pieces came from an ancient ritual in the Yellow River Valley, in which local families praying for good harvest and fortune made a quilt out of 100 embroidered pieces to please the deities. The tradition has been dying out as more and more people have left their villages for towns and cities.

The pieces of this new quilt were dyed in five colours: blue, black, red, yellow and white. These represented the five natural elements in Chinese culture: wood, water, fire, earth and metal.

A particularly impressive piece of the quilt was contributed by Chang Zhenfang, a well-known folk artist from Ansai county. The 78-year-old grandmother drew a few lines on a piece of yellow cloth to contour two lovers standing side by side. …

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