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Ancient Hainanese brocade shines in Italy

Updated: May 4, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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Liu Xianglan, a national-level practitioner of the spinning, dyeing and embroidery traditions of the Li people, displays Li brocade weaving techniques during Milan Design Week in Milan, Italy, on April 17, 2023. (Xinhua)

HAIKOU, May 2 (Xinhua) -- What wonder can be created when millennia-old Li brocade traditions from China's Hainan island meet the global fashion hub of Milan, Italy?

Donning a traditional Li ethnic group costume, 54-year-old Liu Xianglan sits on the ground and weaves colorful yarn into delicate brocade, using a waist loom she brought to Milan from her home in the city of Wuzhishan.

Liu is a national-level practitioner of the spinning, dyeing and embroidery traditions of the Li people. This ancient craft was put on display during Milan Design Week, which ran from April 18 to 23.

"It was quite a spectacle. Many curious foreigners came to take a look at my weaving of the Li brocade," Liu said, still excited.

With a history of over 3,000 years, Li brocade weaving techniques have been passed down through women alone.

Liu has been learning the craft from her mother since she was little. Today, she trains local villagers in the techniques of Li brocade and teaches in local schools, hoping to "help the traditional skills survive time."

More young talent is now joining Liu's cause and helping to promote the ancient brocade on the international stage.

During Milan Design Week, nearly 100 Li brocade works were created through a design platform led by the Academy of Fine Arts at Hainan Normal University.

A model presents a Li brocade creation during Milan Design Week in Milan, Italy, on April 17, 2023. (Xinhua)

Zhang Yin, dean of the academy, said that designers are innovating to make Li brocade more fashionable and attractive to young people.

The traditional brocade is embracing modern techniques, new materials and clothing styles favored by young people, he said. It is also being made into home decorations and other creative products.

The exhibition of the Li culture at Milan Design Week showcased Li brocade costumes and weaving skills, and also featured performances of Li folk songs and musical instruments.

The show was the largest of its kind where the Li culture stepped onto the international stage, said Rao Qiongjuan, director of the office for intangible cultural heritage protection under Hainan's department of tourism, culture, radio, television and sports.

Rao said she believes the occasion was of special significance to Hainan's ethnic cultures. "It was a kind of exchange and mutual learning between cultures," she said.

In Milan, the Hainan delegation also met with various Italian brands. Rao said she expects commercial cooperation with local brands to help integrate Li brocade patterns into fashion design.

"The exhibition brought home the bright prospects of innovation in Li brocade," Zhang said. "The internationalization of the brocade has just begun." 

Editor: Li Shimeng