Changyi works to restore silk industry to former glory

By YUAN SHENGGAO| (China Daily)| Updated : 2021-01-07

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Liutuan town [Photo/]

Liutuan township in Changyi, Shandong province, is ramping up efforts to revitalize its silk industry to its former glory.

Its key approaches include protecting the geographical indication of Changyi Silk and preserving the intangible cultural heritage of the Liutuan silk-making craft.

The history of silk making in Changyi dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century-256 BC).The local silk industry boomed during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), according to a silk museum at Liutuan.

The township is located at a river, linked to the Weihe River and Bohai Sea. Its prime location provided Changyi silk makers with easy access to the maritime Silk Road in ancient China.

Changyi silk was popular in the markets along the ancient trade route because of its high quality, which was attributed to local craft workers' innovation in silk-making skills, China Intellectual Property News quoted Li Hailiang, chairman of the standing committee of the township people's congress, as saying.

The township's top legislator said the local silk craft innovation has connections to Cao Xueqin, who created A Dream in Red Mansions, one of the four ancient Chinese literature classics.

Cao Xueqin's grandfather was Cao Yin, who was a favored official during the reign of Kangxi Emperor, one of the most reputed emperors during the Qing Dynasty.

Cao Yin served as head of the royal weaving departments in Suzhou and Nanjing, two of the three major silk production centers in Jiangnan, which is roughly today's Yangtze River Delta region. The departments were responsible for supplying textiles and garments to the royal court.

He married a daughter of Li Shizhen, an official born in Changyi. After Cao Yin moved from Suzhou to Nanjing to take office, his position in Suzhou was taken over by Li Shizhen's son Li Xun.

As a result, the advanced silk craft was introduced to Changyi, which greatly improved the local silk production prowess and helped Changyi silk earn a great reputation in overseas markets.

Home to a host of silk businesses, Changyi had long been bustling with silk manufacture until the 1930s.

Despite its established reputation, Changyi silk has yet to expand its market share, said Liang Yongyan, chief of the city's market regulation bureau.

Since Changyi silk was granted the status of geographical indications and the Liutuan silk-making craft was included among Shandong's intangible cultural heritage, the local silk industry has embarked on a revitalization path.

"The GI logo gives us more confidence to export our products," Li Huaguang, chairman and general manager of local manufacturer Huaxin Silk, told China Intellectual Property News.

Amid 40 weaving machines at a Huanxin plant, Xu Tianhu, a staff member of the company, told the Beijing-based newspaper: "These machines are capable of rolling out silk products that are 6,000 meters long every day. The products will all be exported."

One of the province's major silk exporters, the company has its products shipped to more than 20 countries and regions, including Japan, South Korea, the United States and Southeast Asia.

"It is a development focus of the Changyi silk industry to create a GI brand and promote intangible cultural heritage," Liang said.

Lyu Shanshan, the city's Party secretary, said: "As a calling card of Changyi, silk is the core of the local culture.

"Developing the traditional silk industry and promoting silk culture requires we combine the industry's growth with cultural tourism and cultural creativity, giving Changyi silk a new lease on life."