CRAFTSMANSHIP

It is a local custom in Qingyang Gansu Province to make sachets during the Dragon Boat Festival. Also called “chuchu,” the sachets are made of either silk, satin or cotton and are filled with herbal medicine. They are worn to ward off mosquitoes as well as various infections or are given as presents to children in the form of headwear or shoes to protect from the evil eye. Colorful sachets resembling rice dumplings are also hung on windows to bring good luck.

There is a variety of steps involved in creating a Qingyang sachet. Master Liu Lanfang says, “The most difficult parts are pasting and embroidering. You should paste carefully; otherwise the shape is changed.” The traditional “chuchu” is embroidered using a special technique that makes the stitches invisible. Usually, four to five sachets can be completed in a day, but making a three-dimensional sachet takes two or three days. According to Liu, each sachet has its own life, bearing the emotions of its creator.

The colors of Qingyang sachets are bold and vivid. It is not their proportions but rather their unique spirit that is most valued. The themes cover every facet of rural life: vegetables, fruits, cattle, etc.

Each sachet has its own story. A rooster-shaped sachet has the unique property of protecting the owner from harm, since the ancient Chinese believed that roosters wake up before sunrise and scare away the ghosts. In the minds of locals, a sachet is a powerful amulet.

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  • Liu Lanfang Gansu, China More >

    Gansu Qingyang embroidery master. In 2011, she received an honorable award from the Ministry of Culture for her active participation in preserving traditional arts and crafts.

    Liu Lanfang is a student of Gansu Province's folk art master craftsman Guangpu Wang and Chinese footwear production inheritor Guanqin Wang. She is skilled at the variety of embroidery stitching methods, and is recognized as the leading Qingyang sachet embroiderer with a unique style. Her “Silk Road” figure series received a silver medal on the 2014 China International Tourism Products Fair. Her masterpiece “Zodiac Shoes”, was hailed as the “Most Popular” on the 2014 China Qingyang Sachet Folk Culture Festival.

History

 

According to the lore, Qibo, the founder of Traditional Chinese Medicine, taught others that they could repel mosquitoes by carrying selected herbs in small packets called “xiangbao,” or sachets. The scented sachets were especially popular in Qibo’s hometown of Qingyang.

 

One can trace the history of the sachet from the literature of the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) through to the paintings of the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD). But in 2000, an actual sachet was unearthed in Qingyang. It was shaped like a handbag with a cover like a lotus leaf. Plum blossoms, lotus petals and wrapped flowers were embroidered on it, embellished by 17 jewels. The sachet is 800 years old and is considered the oldest one still in existence.

 

During the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1911), Qingyang sachet styles became very popular. The craftsmanship of sachet making was mastered by almost every household, and young women were judged fit to marry based on their sachet making skills.

In 2006, the sachet was placed on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

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