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Heritage Trail project

Yunnan Menglian Handwoven Fabric Exhibition

A converted hutong house in the historic leafy green street of Guozijian is the temporary home for a number of beautiful woven textiles from Yunnan.

From July 1st to 5th, the pieces, woven by Dai women from Menglian county in south-west Yunnan, will be on display in the gallery-style space created by the Lost and Found store.

A six-metre long weaving hangs across the shop’s main window. Stepping inside, viewers will find pieces draped across retro tables and a cushion-less couch.

The modern wooden floorboards, glass ceiling and internal garden with bathtub full of plants provide the perfect backdrop for the traditional weavings – products of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center’s (CHP) Menglian Weaving Revival project.

Menglian is a multi-ethnic border county in Yunnan, home to the Dai, Lahu, Wa, Hani and other ethnic minority groups.

Since the Yuan Dynasty, Menglian has been a gateway and trade route to mainland China from Myanmar, Thailand and other south-east Asian countries because of its special geographical position on the border. Despite this, because of historical and natural reasons, the area is remote and isolated, meaning the natural environment and traditional cultural heritage has remained fairly protected. However, with economic growth and the younger generation migrating to larger cities, their rich and elegant culture is in danger of being lost.

CHP’s Menglian Weaving Revival project follows on from its successful Mengma Archive project where CHP assisted a group of Dai elders in Yunnan to self-document their culture.

The Menglian Weaving Revival project, sponsored by New Zealand Aid, intends to go a step further from the Mengma Archive, aiming to reinvigorate aspects of the Dai culture that have positive economic and social value, build on the indigenous weaving traditions of the Dai people and to provide alternative livelihoods for Dai women.

CHP has worked with US and Thai handicraft experts to organize Menglian women into a weaving cooperative, produce woven goods using indigenous techniques and motifs, but adapted to meet the demands of the international market.

With the increasing wealth of modern cultural achievements, some of the traditional folk culture has been forgotten or lost. Folk art rescue and protecting works of intangible cultural heritage is becoming increasingly important.

CHP founder, He Shuzhong, said the weaving is more than just a way to make a living.

“Not for three meals a day, nor for officials; but for their own dignity, for their own quality of life. The Dai people do this for themselves and their own enjoyment,” he said.

“We hope through these precious fabrics, manuscripts and books, a deeper understanding of the Dai people, their culture, arts and crafts is discovered.”

Exhibit Time: 11:00am – 18:00pm; July 1, to July 5, 2011
Address: Lost and Found II, 57  Guozijian Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, PRC

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