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Crafting a career and boosting her village

By WANG RU and LI YINGQING | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-30 08:36

Jin (right) makes Yi embroidery in her dress shop in the Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture, Yunnan province, with embroiderer Gu Yuanyuan, in February last year. [Photo provided to China Daily]

She explains that the craft is more than 1,700 years old and is known for its exquisite colorful patterns, the result of intricate stitches. The craft has been passed down through generations of Yi women. Jin is the eighth generation of her family to be engaged in the craft.

About two decades ago, the local government noticed her mother's proficiency in making Yi embroidery, and helped her to start a workshop. It was a success, and she received a large number of orders for embroidered clothes. Jin says that consequently, people realized that being skilled in the traditional craft could be a money earner.

It was also through her mother's embroidery skills that Jin and her elder sister were able to continue to receive an education, and they became the village's first university students.

"If my mother had not mastered the handicraft, we sisters would have lived a very different life, similar to many other Yi girls living in the mountains at that time, getting married early and working as farmers. But my mother's embroidery skills enabled us to receive a better education," says Jin.

When she graduated from Qujing Normal University as a music major in 2012, she was recruited by a local chain restaurant serving Yunnan cuisine in Qujing, and was responsible for teaching the staff traditional songs and dance.

"The restaurant features cultural activities. Since Yunnan has many ethnic groups, it showcases their culture through performances and has become one of the leading Yunnan cuisine restaurant brands in the province. That was the time when I realized that the culture of ethnic groups can enrich a business," says Jin.

Given her attachment to Yi embroidery and confidence in ethnic culture, when her mother suggested she return home to inherit the craft, she decided to do just that in 2014.

"Maybe through my own efforts, we can discover more value in the craft," she says.

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